I’m running my 3rd marathon later this month and am driving myself crazy trying to figure out an appropriate time goal and pacing strategy.
My original goal was just to break 5 hours – something I fell short of in 2017 and 2018. But my training has gone well this year, and I’m thinking a more ambitious goal might be appropriate. I haven’t raced since last Fall, but ran some fast training runs 2 weeks ago and set new PRs for 5K (26:43 or 8:34 per mile) and 13.1 (2:08 or 9:44 per mile). These were unexpectedly big improvements over my prior PRs, and my average heart rate was quite a bit lower (for the 13.1, 155bpm, as compared to 169bpm in my last race).
I’ve done two 21+ mile training runs at roughly 5-hour marathon pace (11:25 to 11:30 per mile). These came at the end of my high mileage weeks. In both cases, I felt confident I could have kept going for the full 26.2 at the same pace.
Online calculators are giving me a goal times of 4:35 (10:29 per mile) to 4:42 (10:45 per mile). I think these times are within the realm of possibility. But they make me nervous for a couple reasons:
1. I’ve never run a marathon well. My last marathon was a disaster, around 5:21. I hadn’t trained enough, and just had a bad day exacerbated by complications from a new medication. And in my first marathon, a combination of starting too fast and hot weather led to an epic bonk in the last 7 miles.
2. I haven’t run nearly this fast in my long training runs. On my first 21 mile run, I ran mostly at 11:30 per mile, but sped up to 11:00 minutes miles for 6 miles at the end. I finished the last 4 miles of my second 21 mile run at around 10:40 pace, but that was aided by some downhills and followed a particularly slow first 16 miles (closer to 12:00 minute miles).
One of my biggest goals this time around is not to fall apart at the end of the race. And I feel like that goal is a bit at odds with trying to run the fastest marathon I’m capable off. So, here are the pacing strategies I’m considering:
1. Run the first 13.1 at 11:27/mile. Run the next 7 miles at 11:00/mile. Run the last 6 miles as fast as I can – hopefully faster than 11:00.
2. Run the first 20 miles at 11:00/mile. Run the last 6 miles as fast as I can – hopefully faster than 11:00.
What do you think? Am I being too conservative? Or showing appropriate respect for a distance that has always kicked my ass?
I'd welcome any suggestions or advice you can give me!