Pacing tips

Hi everyone, I'm looking for pacing tips for my first marathon. I've been doing long runs at average pace of between 8:15 to 8:30 min miles overall on my runkeeper app. I want to run average 8:20 mins mile on race day. When I check my splits the average is good but times all over the place. Say 20 mile run was average 8:14 but splits were anything from 7:40 min to 8:40min obviously more economical to do consistent 8:15 pace but struggle to. Would love to hear any tips cheers


  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    I'm not very good at pacing myself, and I think its one of the things that differentiates the experienced runners from the rest of us as its a difficult task to master.

    The best advice I've had for marathon pacing is to practice it.  So do sections of some of your runs at marathon pace just to get used to it (e.g. four miles at MP in a six miles+ run).

    One thing concerns me from your post - are you really running your long runs at marathon pace?  Most training plans have the long runs at an easy pace, or with sections at marathon pace, none of them recommend running the entire long run at marathon pace!

  • Yep - you're racing your long runs as Stutyr says.

    I'm 90 secs or more slower on my long runs than I am on race day. 

    You'll knacker yourself out in training and underperform on race day if you don't slow down - you see it all the time. People smashing themselves on long runs and come race day - the performance just isn't there. 

    Run fast on intervals or short runs - but do not run race pace on your long run.

    Cant you check your splits every mile or two on the app ? And if you're too fast - slow down? 

    When it comes to race day - set a watch timer to bleep every 8 mins 20 secs. 

    When it bleeps - you should be at a mile marker. If you're not - speed up or slow down accordingly. 

  • One thing I would ask is what your other pb's are for shorter distances and where you have got 8:20/mile as your target time from?

    I agree that long runs should be 60-90 seconds above marathon pace, but it may be that your long runs are comfortable enough at their current pace and you may be capable of much quicker than 8:20/mile come race day.

  • This is an area where I'm not clear.  I mean... how do you know what figure to add 90 seconds to.  You can't know your long run pace  without trying it.??

    I've largely taken my long runs at a steady pace, but generally find myself fading towards the end.  I therefore assume that the pace I've gone at is just a bit quick.  Should I then be adding 90second/min to the pace for my next LSR.

    But if all your long runs have been done for 15-20 miles at 9 minute pace... come race day, how on earth do you massively step up the distance to 26.2 miles AND massively step up your pace to 7:30 min/mile?

    Yes, I know that you do lots of shorter runs at pace, and some intervals... but does this REALLY prepare the body to take this double-whammy step up?

  • If you put your current pb's into something like the Mcmillan calculator then this will give you a theoretical marathon pace. You can then add 60-90 seconds per mile to this.

    I would say that you run faster on race day for a number of reasons:

    i) firstly your long runs are not run at 100% effort as you should not be taking too much time to recover and are able to train again the following day (recovery run) or at least the day after

    ii) secondly you would usually taper for a marathon which will leave you fresher than when doing your training runs

    iii) thirdly you will have quite a significant boost just from the adrenaline rush of race day and having other runners around you, compared to running by yourself in training

  • Rob Whyley wrote (see)
    Hi everyone, I'm looking for pacing tips for my first marathon. I've been doing long runs at average pace of between 8:15 to 8:30 min miles overall on my runkeeper app. I want to run average 8:20 mins mile on race day. When I check my splits the average is good but times all over the place. Say 20 mile run was average 8:14 but splits were anything from 7:40 min to 8:40min obviously more economical to do consistent 8:15 pace but struggle to. Would love to hear any tips cheers

    Do you run with a Garmin or similar?  I find it really invaluable to monitor my ongoing pace. 

    There might be 3 things affecting your pace.  1/ terrain  2/ concentration 3/ tiredness.

    Is you effort varying?  I know from watching my Garmin that some parts of my long runs are faster than others... mainly because of the obvious uphill or downhills... but also some paths wind a lot... and others are grassy/muddy in places, but nice trails or tarmac in others.  This causes pace variations of a minute a mile for me... so maybe that's at least part of the answer.   The other thing that causes variation for me, is concentration.   Some people use music, running to the beat, but that's not for me.  Perhaps you can set your watch to beep every 2 minutes, just to act as a reminder to think about your pace...  and if you've got it on a Garmin on your wrist, that makes it easy to quickly adjust.

  • Cheers Iwan,

    The MacMillan calculator predicts 3:40 based on my actual 5K time trial   and 3:50 from my 10K.    So you might say that I should be targetting marathon pace of about 8:35 pace...  in which case my long runs which are at about 10min/mile would seem to be about right.

    But the truth is, I generally don't have confidence that I can go faster than that for a full run - and mostly have not been able to maintain a 10 minute pace on the longest runs (save for a really good run last Saturday).

    I appreciate that I should be well rested, well fed, and well motivated on race day...  but I just can't see it taking my time down to the 8.35 or 9 minute mark.  Not least because the last 5+ miles will be unknown territory.

    But the more I read now, the more I'm thinking that I should set off at 9 rather than 10 minute miling.  Any comments really welcome.

  • Very inexpierenced, I've sorta ran all my life short distances 5/6 mile for general fitness. This year I thought I'd do nw half when challenged by mate. I don't know any runners so looked online/ mags etc. when I started I just found a comfatable pace that I seemed able to keep up, & that's basically where I got figure from. I'm comfy at average pace 8:15/20 over my long runs which we're several 15m a 16.5, 18, 20& now back down to 15. I just figured if I can do it in training usually after work, by time I've tapered I should b able to go the distance at that pace. Pb is half 1:42 on road, 1:52 off road. They re the only race s I've done. First end feb, second mid aug
  • Just had a look at that Macmillan calculator, from h/m time it's giving a 8;15 race pace, that is 6 months old. My 10k 44.4something, which is current about 3 weeks ago, although not a race but a best effort on a tempo run is 8 min miles & prediction of sub 3.30. But I dream of that time & too scared to go for it incase wheels drop off at the end & I miss my actual target of sub3:40. Like I say o have thought bout going for it, but due to the unknown, the undulating course & getting it compleatly wrong I daren't
  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    Personal experience of the McMillan calculator (that I think was consistent with most people on here based on a comparison of half & marathon times a while ago) is that the McMillan time is optimistic as its based on equivalent performance - and its very unlikely you can recreate your 5k performance over 26.2 miles at the first attempt.  It also isn't advisable to use a shorter distance to predict you marathon time, so you should be using a half-mara time to predict your marathon, as the difference between 5k and 26.2 miles is huge, so the 5k is a poor predictor.

    Rob, if you've run a 44'40" 10k, I'm not sure why your struggling to maintain 8 m/m in a tempo run, as that 10k time equates to just over 7 m/m?  Was your tempo run a significantly further distance?  However, if you've managed to maintain around 8'20" for 20 miles in training its likely you can maintain this over the 26 miles in race conditions based on what Iwan said in his post.


  • Sorry I meant the 8 min was the pace it said was marathon pace, I meant I didn't think I'd maintain that for the full race. My tempo

    Runs hav tended to be about 7:15 to 7:30/40min miles over 10k at about 85% effort
  • From the times you've given, I suspect you may be capable of surprising yourself on race day! If I were you I'd aim to run the first two miles at about 9:00 pace just to get yourself warmed up and also to make sure you don't rush off too fast at an unsustainable pace. Easy mistake to make when you get caught up with the crowds and the excitement at the start! Then after mile 2 you can speed up a bit. If you can run 8:15 average pace for a 20 mile training run you should manage it on race day no bother.

    You're right to be wary of the wheels falling off at the end - if you haven't run full marathon distance before it's hard to appreciate the difference between 20 miles and 26. But if you've practiced using gels on youtr training runs you can carry a couple with you and plan on having a spare one for the last few miles in case you do run out of steam and need a quick boost. Caffeinated gels in particular are quite spectacular in their ability to give you a real boot up the bum and get you moving again...

    Out of interest, what's the furthest you've run in training?

  • Furthest is 20 miles, I've been using gels during training & will carry some as I've been using them at 7,11,15 & 18 miles & planning for 21 & 24 mile point. I'm tapering now as race week on Sunday. Can't wait now just want to get in with it
  • You want to run at 8.20 pace - that gives you a 3.37 goal ?

    Your half marathon PB is 1.42

    So double that and add say 20 mins (its approximate).

    That gives you a 3.44 estimate. 

    So your 3.37 is only 7 mins ahead of the calculator.  

    If you've trained well over the long runs - do your 5 longest runs add up to 100 miles ? Then I think you're in with a shout. 

    If you havent got the long runs in - then the last 6 miles will find you out !

    Good luck with it !


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