After several months of training the time has come for you to determine just how long is it going to take you to run the NYC Marathon. Whether your goal is to win or to simply finish the race on the same day you started, EVERYONE needs a race plan, regardless of pace or goals. It is extremely important that you look back at your training and be honest with yourself before choosing an arbitrary finish time based on how you thought or wanted your training to go. Pick a goal that is realistic and best reflects your current fitness level. Here are two options that you can utilize regardless of your experience or specific time goals.
Race Plan Options:
Option 1: EASY- That’s right, run the same EASY pace that you have been running every Saturday for the past few months. This is a great plan for first timers, or for those whose training didn’t go as well as expected. This pace is your comfort zone, you know it so well you can do it in your sleep. Treat race day like any other Saturday: a conversational paced run through the streets of NYC. This will ensure you achieve your ultimate goal: FINISH!!!
Option 2: Personal Record (PR)- You are an experienced runner, you started this season with a certain goal in mind and you are not going to let anything or anyone stand in your way on race day. Your training was flawless, and you have only one thing on your mind: PR! This option is perfect for those who have specific time goals.
Regardless of which race approach you choose, consistent pacing from start to finish is key. Instead of viewing the marathon as 26.2 miles, let’s further simplify things and divide your race into three phases:
1) Phase 1- The Warm-Up: Consider miles 1-10 as your warm-up. Your goals during phase 1 are to establish your pace and, most importantly, make sure you DON’T go out too fast (the #1 mistake of the endurance athlete). During this phase it is recommended that you add a MINIMUM of 10 seconds/mile to your goal pace regardless if you choose option 1 or 2.
2) Phase 2- The Race: This is where your race begins. Your focus during miles 11-20 is goal pace. Your body is adequately warmed up, and it’s time to start thinking about that PR.
3) Phase 3- The Finish: It is at this point of the race that you want to run completely by feel. If you are feeling good and your race has gone as planned, you will find yourself running slightly faster than goal pace. There is no reason to hold back now. Go for it as you gradually increase the pace over the last 6.2 miles.
To help clarify the above, here is an example of a pacing plan:
Marathon Goal: 3:30 (8:01 pace/mile)
Miles 1-10: 8:11 pace (8:01-8:21)
To avoid going out too fast, add 10 seconds to your goal pace to determine your pace for the first 10 miles. Utilize a +/- 10 second window to your goal time to ensure consistent pacing (8:01-8:11-8:21). Since the first 10 miles are considered your “warm-up,” it is more than ok if a few of your early miles are actually slower than 8:21/mile (i.e. crowds at the starting line, a much needed porta-potty stop, etc.).
Miles 11-20: 8:01 pace (7:51-8:11)
This is where the race begins and where you begin to focus on your goal marathon pace (i.e. 8:01). Once again, utilize the +/- 10 second pacing window (7:51-8:01-8:11) to ensure consistent pacing from miles 11-20.
Miles 21-26.2: Run the last 6.2 miles (10K) completely by feel. If you are feeling good, gradually increase your pace over the last 6+ miles. If everything goes according to plan, you will find yourself running slightly faster than goal pace during this phase.
+/- 10 second window? Why? Well, the goal is consistent pacing throughout your race. It is nearly impossible to hit the same pace/mile for 26.2 miles. If you can stay within 10 seconds of your goal pace you are doing great job of being consistent. The more consistent you are with your effort level (i.e heart rate, respiration rate, etc.) the less energy you will waste and the better you will feel throughout your race.