April 28, 2011

Deciding on your marathon race pace

With four days to go until the Vancouver marathon, you should decide on your race pace if you haven't done so already. It's important for any distance but especially so for the marathon, a race where starting too fast will cost you dearly in the second half.

It's hard to contain your excitement at the beginning of a race that has been your goal for at least four months. That taper has left you rested and that, combined with the energy of your fellow runners, makes it easy to head out too quickly.

This is where race pace planning is very helpful, as it focuses your mind and body on preserving your energy in the first half so that you leave enough in the tank to cover the second half at a similar pace. As tempting as it is to tick off those first kilometres and miles a few seconds ahead of your goal pace, try to avoid it because it usually catches up with you somewhere around 28km or so.

The seconds you save by running the first half a few seconds per kilometre faster are easily lost when you find yourself walking later.

Typically you begin your preparations for a specific marathon with a key goal in mind. If it is your first, finishing is likely your key target. If you've done one before, and have prepared accordingly, you'll likely aim to improve on your previous time.

This will be my 13th certified and standalone marathon (I qualify this as I've run five marathons as part of an Ironman; did what was supposed to be a marathon distance in Death Valley in 1999, though was cut short by 3km because of a sand storm; and have done four ultras, i.e. races that exceed the 42.195km distance - these all provided helpful experience and lessons for running a marathon).

Based on my race times this year - 89:46 for a half in February, between 19:30 and 19:42 for four 5km time trials in the past four months; and a 40:09 10km time two weeks ago - I have decided to aim for a marathon PB which means anything faster than 3:07:10.

I also ran 10 Yasso 800s at the end of March, finishing them between 3:11 (for the second) and 2:54 (for the last). Read more about Yassos and my marathon race pace considerations here.

On Sunday, I will aim to run 4:25 per km or 7:06 per mile (tip: make sure you get your race pace in both km and mile units). A very handy tool is Merv's Running Calculator. I will also aim to do the second half slightly faster than the first.

I ran my PB in the 2008 Victoria marathon (here's a race report including splits). However, I also keep in mind that I've run a 3:12 and 3:10 on the Vancouver course in 2008 and 2009, when I expected to be a little faster (my 2008 Vancouver marathon race report).

Overall, my key goal is to have a great race - by that I mean that I am going to make each step the best it could possible be while reminding myself how much I love running marathons. The result will be, well, exactly that - the result. I am very much looking forward to Sunday.

Have an awesome race!!!

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