First Marathon - Pace Advice

Hi all,

I've been running for about two years, gradually increasing my training and have seen improving PBs in races.  My current 10k is 43:33 and my HM is 1:43:30.

I've bitten the bullet and decided to enter a marathon next year, with training starting at the beginning of Jan.  I'm trying to work out what would be a sensible, yet competitive target time based on my experience to date.  A lot of advice says your only goal on a first marathon should be to finish, yet if I use a run calculator such as McMillan it suggests I could make 3:37:49 - which I would obviously be thrilled with!

My initial goal was just to get sub 4hrs but would love to run as well as I can, given I'm not sure if I'm likely to be able to devote the necessary training time to run another one.  Should I pace myself during training to get the 3:37, or just aim for 4hrs?  Have people paced themselves to McMillan calculations before and found them reasonable?  Or can I adjust my pacing throughout training if I feel it is going well?

Grateful for any advice - thanks



  • TeknikTeknik ✭✭✭

    Hi GMC

    It took me 7 attempts to convert my 1:43 to a sub4.  I don't know who the sampled runners were for McM but I would guess they're half my age and 2 stone lighter.

    There was a thread on here which asked RW runners to input their half v mara times.  The mean for male first timers was 2.29x the half for a full mara.  So a sub4 is possible, and I would go with that...

    My biggest piece of advice is to run your long runs slow - not at goal pace.  Your body needs to adapt physiologically and those changes to slow twitch muscles only happen at low intensities...

  • Thanks Tekniklaus that's helpful to know.  I did wonder if the McM times were a bit ambitious and didn't want to set myself up for a fall.

    I'm following Hal Higden's training schedule, so will only be doing pace runs on the midweek runs every 2 in 3 weeks.  I do have a tendency to run a bit faster than I think I should on the long runs so need to make sure I'm reigning this in.

    I tried to overreach on my first HM (I have learnt A LOT since then) and ended up very disappointed with the whole experience.  Don't want to make the same mistake again with the big one!

  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    My experience is that the McMillan figures are optimistic.  It would probably be more sensible to look at running sub-4.

    Also, have a look at McMillan's conversion of your 10k for HM distance (and vice versa) as I suspect your HM time is relatively slow compared to your 10k time.  This indicates that your endurance is not as well developed as your speed, so its likely your Marathon time would also be slower than "average" on the McMillan scale.

  • I run about 47 minutes 10K , and around 1.44 for half marathons. At the time of my marathon.. I think I ran the half in around 1.52 and ended up running 3.54. I would say build up your miles, I did not do massive milage but ran around 6 or 7 , 18 mile runs in about 3 hours. I also did a 20 mile road race which was flat around 2 months prior to my marathon to give me confidence. Do not go off too fast as well as many will make that mistake and be shatterred by 16 miles or so.

  • Sub 3.50 sounds about right. Double your half time and add 20 mins.

    You must go easy on your long runs though - you see so many people wondering why their marathon times are way off what they'd hoped for - and cant understand as they've ran their 20 milers at race pace. That does take it out of you. So watch out for that.
  • I used Mcmillan pacing as part of my last marathon training, and they worked quite well for me. Use your current level of performance (HM time) to generate the paces, and not your target time. Rework the times when you enter shorter races during training such as half marathons.

    Remember that the Mcmillan prediction assumes distance specific training for the marathon will be undertaken. You can see from your 10k time and HM time how important proper training is going to be - 6.2 miles in approx 43 mins, and then a further 6.9 miles took 60 mins,  and now there is a further 13.1 on top. So as has been said, because you are not trained for the distance yet, you should err on the side of caution on the long runs - take the slow end of Mcmillan paces - maybe even slower to start with.

    As for a target - if you use Mcmillan paces, then I would say forget target times for 6 to 8 weeks. Train, try a half marathon early spring, and then start thinking targets. I preferred this to picking a plan such as 'Sub 3:45' or 'Sub 4:00' where the pace may be dictated by target time and not current fitness levels


    As for the time target or 'just get round'  goal, that's personal. For me 'just get round' would have felt like the minimum, and if I was going to run 26.2 miles I wanted more focus

  • Good luck for the training and marathon.  I did my first last year and was asking the same question.

    I would say focus on doing the extra mileage (and like everyone else says your long runs must be slower than marathon pace), but try to fit in some medium length 'threshold' runs to keep your speed up.  You can change your pace depending on your fitness from month to month.

    Best advice I was given is to set 'dream' 'real' and 'acceptable' time goals towards the end of training.  That way, you still should meet at least one of these targets even if things go a bit wrong on the day.

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