how to tackle a marathon

after 4 years or running half marathons and 10k, i decided to jump into the full marathon. Just wondering what plan to follow for the actual race would be best, a fast first half and a slow second half? a single paced race all way through? a slow first half and a fast second half? or even considered quarters! 3 miles fast 3 miles slow?

Any runners here that have made similar plans? have they worked? things to consider?

Many thanks!



  • Oh please try the 3 miles fast, 3 miles slow tactic. I really really doubt it will work - but if it does - you'll have a hell of a tale to tell. (and the same if it doesn't).

    Most of us do the slow second half thing - even if we don't mean to. image

    How has the training gone ?
  • i think the consensus is that even pacing is the most effective plan for a marathon, with a very slight negative split if you can manage it (i'm talking seconds, not like a 2 hour first half, and a 90 min second half)

    given that you have some experience of 10k's and half marathons, you should have an idea how to pace a long race, and what works for you. Just do the same, but slightly slower.

  • training is going ok cougie, running 20 milers religiously on sundays, and a half a marathon booked for this sunday in cornwall. Just a month for the big event! can't wait!

  • Nose NowtNose Nowt ✭✭✭

    Yep...  go for even pacing.   Avoid the temptation to do the first miles too fast... getting caught up with the crowd.  For my first marathon, I worked out a pacing plan that was steady-paced up to 17 miles, but then allowed for a steady 'fade' to the finish.  But in reality, my last few miles were my best miles!

  • Sounds like you're well sorted then - so don't mess it up by pacing it wrongly.

    Going out too fast is a sure fire recipe for a blow up. So take it steady in the first half and you could try to increase the pace once you get through the 20 mile mark.

    What is your goal time ? Do you have a recent half to estimate from ?
  • last HM was 5 months ago in birmingham which is pretty flat, did it in 1:22, so I am hoping to break the 3:15 barrier, but a sub 3:30 will make me happy.

  • Assuming your fitness is about the same as it was 5 months ago - 3.15 seems a soft time for you - you could probably do 3.05 or better off a 1.22 ?

    Have a great race - I'm sure you will.
  • even pace then? even pace seems like the way to go

  • 3.15 off a halo PB of 1.22? You sound like you are selling yourself well short. 1.22 should transfer to a sub 3 marathon if you have put the training in. Don't write yourself off so easily. How long has your marathon build up been? what paces have you been doing the 20 milers? I really think closer to 3 could be achievable if the training has been consistent. Anyone else agree?

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    As long as you have managed to do a decent number of 20 mile runs then I reckon you should be able to get down to 3 hrs without too much trouble.
  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    That does seem a soft target - I'm looking at a 3:15 marathon and I'm around the 1:30 mark for the HM.

    As its the first marathon, then sub 3 might be optimistic but based on the pacing discussion, if you start off at a 7'10" min/mile pace you'd be looking at sub 3:10 and from your HM times you may be able to increse the pace after the 18 mile marker.

    Disclaimer: only done one marathon so far (next month will be my second) and I really messed up my pacing in that one.  I may not be the best person to give advice!

  • The real question is about your 20 plus mile training runs.
    How many have you done since January, and at what pace? You are allowed a bad day at the office pace wise, so it's what you've managed for say 22 miles as a training PB.

    Your age matters too.

    The 1:22 HM PB would, off the back of hard marathon training, be a pointer to sub 3, provided all the chips were stacked nicely. If it's a stand alone, then it's worth exactly 1:22 at half way. No more, no less.

    As for pacing strategy, I have always carried pace notes, with ETA for every single mile marker. That way you are running against their measure, not just your Garmin, with it's 99% accuracy. Plan for even pace,

    The first quarter of the race should feel like the handbrakes are on. You need to hold back.
    The second quarter should be really nice. At halfway, a polite conversation should be possible whilst running.
    In quarter three, you need to keep the focus. Seriously, because this is when you can lose your target.
    From 19 to 23 it's hard work.
    In the fifth quarter from 23 to 26 it should hurt. Everywhere.
    That just leaves a sprint finish, and you'll find the fumes to manage it. Somehow.


  • DustinDustin ✭✭✭

    Blisters has answered it well,
    I would suggest off a 1h22 half then 3h15 should be your first target assuming (a) you have done the 20 milers (b) its a road marathon.
    If its trail/mountain then anything could happen

    I'd add that it is entirely possible to feel great at 16 or 17 but resist the temptation to push the pedal, stay focussed on your mile splits. The hardest thing to do when you're feeling good is to hold back. 3 or 4 miles 10-15s too quick here will bite you at mile 21 and 22 and you'll lose something like 45-60s / mile on the run in. Better to put that kick in at 24/25 when you know its not far to go.

    good luck!

  • Yeah, I had one run when I hit the proverbial wall at mile 25. The minute/mile pace just dropped. I was hanging in there at 6:50's and then it was all I could do to pull 7:30's or 8:00's at best. The reason? An excess of enthusiam over ability.

  • What scared me more is that he was considering running 3 miles fast and 3 mile slow segments for the race. image

    Good analysis there Blisters.
  • thanks guys for the advice. all I can say is that i have been doing my 20 milers religiously on sundays since january with a week and a half off because of the flu.

    I have run them at different paces but never under 6:30 a mile and never over the 8 minute per mile.

    a few times i felt so good that i carried on for 24 miles.

    the event is mainly road with a few grass paths, not very hilly


    many thanks

  • So 20 every week - 8 or so of them ? And you're still feeling strong ? Sounds to me like you'll smash it - but dont overdo it in the last few weeks.
  • I ran falmouth half marathon last sunday, went ok, 2 minutes faster than last year.

    It was a road race with the nastiest hills I have ever run. I don't know how the winner managed a 1:18!!!

    My time: 86 minutes

    I had a few issues with my trainers like shoelaces coming off and having to stop to do them and a really bad stomach cramp in mile 2 for some last minute coconut water that didnt go well down before the race.

    Next sunday is my last long run, a 20 miler and then taper starts.

    What can I do for the next three weeks training wise?

    Marathon is on the 14 of april.

  • My marathon plan is straight forward - break the 40kms down in 4x 10ks:

    1st 10k just under MP target - gets you settled and makes sure you don't go off too fast.

    Next 20k is at MP and should feel easy and comfortable.

    Finally attack the last 10k.

    Obviously you need to be realistic with your MP based on your training, recent performances and MP sessions.


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