Marathon Pace Myths

by coach Amy Anderson

Fall Marathon season is here and Rogue athletes are ready to race.  While each athlete creates an individual race plan and no single plan is right for everyone, here are some common myths when it comes to managing your marathon.

Myth: You should run every mile at your Marathon Goal Pace (MGP), the term Rogues use for the average minutes per mile needed in order to achieve your Marathon Goal.
Fact: Those little laminated paper pace bands with even mile-by-mile splits seem to encourage this myth.  Instead, it’s a better idea to think in terms of 5-mile averages, or perhaps an average for your first 5k and then 10k splits thereafter.  This allows you to take into account course congestion, terrain and your effort level.  You’re likely looking at each mile split on your watch anyway.  Knowing what the elapsed time should be over several miles helps to keep you from over-correcting when a particular mile is slower or faster than you intended.  It’ll be fewer numbers to look at, too.

Myth: You should bank time in the early miles while you feel fresh, so you’ll have a cushion if you fade in the later miles when the going gets tough.
Fact: Banking time in a marathon does not work.  The best marathon times are run either with each half equal or with the second half just slightly faster.  This is true even with a downhill start (the course profile in Boston, for example).  Instead, think of banking energy.  By being disciplined and restraining yourself to MGP, you can get to the later miles with what it takes to push hard to the finish line.

Myth:  Practicing MGP will teach your body what it feels like.
Fact: There may be reasons to practice MGP, but that’s not one of them. In the early miles of a marathon, you’re fresh, other athletes are pulling you along, the spectators are energizing; MGP feels ridiculously easy.  If it doesn’t, then you’re going too fast.  In the middle miles, you may have found some rhythm but MGP could be more work than you expected.  You might start to wonder if it’s sustainable.  For the last 3-6 miles of your race, the exact same minutes per mile feel like 5k pace… or worse.  It’s become very hard work and all you’re trying to do is not slow down.

Myth: Sticking with a pace group will guarantee you get your goal time.
Fact: The pros and cons of running with a pace group are worthy of an entire separate article! In short though,  A) their strategy may not be yours, and B) pace group leaders are only human.  The bottom line is that you are the only person in control of and responsible for your race.

Come up with a smart pacing plan, write it down, and review it with your coach.  Commit to it, execute it on race day and be prepared to celebrate!

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