Marathon Pacing

The big race day is coming. If you have prepared well you should have a good idea by now of your goal time and average pace. The question is how to manage this during the race itself?


You may have heard the term “banking minutes”. There is no such thing in any race, particularly a half or full marathon. The price paid for this can be catastrophic in the last 6 miles of a marathon. I’ve heard for every minute you “bank” in the first half could cost you 3 minutes in the back half. You get the idea.

It takes a few miles to warmup in a marathon, so use them just for that. You will find yourself naturally running faster a few miles in with no extra effort. Its important to reserve your calories early on, and burn them from fat, so later on when you start burning your glycogen stores, they will be there.

A good rule of thumb is to run the first few miles of your marathon 10-30 seconds slower than your target race pace. It depends on your goal time of course, if you are under the 3:00 range then you would go 10-15 seconds slower, if you are over that range you may want to consider 20-30 seconds slower. You will have a lot of runners passing you during this but don’t be tempted. You will see them later. When you hit 8-10 miles now move into your target race pace, then as you get to 20 take it down a notch and bring it in over the last 6 miles. This is where you will see those folks who passed you in the 10 miles as they are paying the price.

As an example, when I ran my 2:21 marathon my first 5 miles were at 5:30 pace, then I started slowly picking up seconds each mile as I went, ending up averaging 5:22 per mile for the 26.2 and negative splitting.

So, in the end, by starting slower you will finish faster and please remember there are no “banked minutes” only lost minutes in the last third of your race. You may enjoy the excitement and jubilance of achieving your goal such as Michael shown here who ran 2:57 this past April in the GO! marathon, running his first half in 1:30 and the back half in 1:27.

In Lydiard training there are specific workouts which train the runner to understand pace and negative splitting, they are called Out & Backs and Progress Calibration Runs.
For more information on the Lydiard Training Method stop by the store. We are trained, certified Lydiard Method coaches and would enjoy talking with you about it. The next cycle will begin in late November for Spring 2020 goal races.

Bob Dyer (Co-owner, Running Niche)
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