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Marathon Pace, and other mysteries

8 March 2012

The marathon is still eight weeks away, but it’s like a mountain in the distance. You see it every day, it’s part of the landscape, you might even have climbed it before, but one day soon you’re going to wake up at the foot of it staring upwards in panic.

One of the main ways to counter the marathon panic is to plan. I love to plan. Training, logistics, fuelling, outfits. The only important thing to plan though, really, is the hardest of all: how fast to run it.

I decided my marathon pace before I ran a step of my training plan. I wanted to finish in 3 hours 30 minutes, therefore my marathon pace would be 210 minutes divided by 26.2 miles: 8 minutes per mile. Last time I did the same, with 4 hours and 9 minute miles.

They’re not quite the same, though, are they, 8 minute miles and 9 minute miles? There might be a tiny flaw in my logic here.

Recently I listened to a marathon talk podcast “training talk” about marathon pace. It was comprehensive, bordering on confusing: pace of your last marathon is important but you shouldn’t set your sights too low; current training performance is key but you shouldn’t get carried away if it’s going well and set your sights too high, you need a race strategy but you should be flexible on the day. Hmm.

The best piece of advice, and the one I’m taking with me up the mountain on the day, was that your marathon pace should feel too easy at the start, and hard at the end. I think that fits well with my experience of running at 8 minutes a mile so far. I am trying to ignore the fact that 9 minute miles felt very tough at the end of my last marathon, assuming that any miles feel tough at the end of a marathon. Right?

With marathon pace in mind, I set out on Sunday to run a comfortable (but not easy) pace over 13.1 miles. I finished in 1 hour 38 minutes. I have no idea what that means.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 12 March 2012 4:39 pm

    Sounds like you were sub 8 min miles to me and flying! Well done!

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