How to get a decent marathon pace? My first marathon - need advice

I am training for my 1st London Marathon and I am following the Hal Higdon Novice 2 programme.  Training so far going well.  The furthest I have ran is 9 miles, with this weekend I am running 11 miles.  Everyone on this site has given me some great advice, which I really do take on board.  I'm not a great runner, but I do enjoy it.   I can run a 5K in 26 and a half minutes and my last 9 miles averaged out at 9 minutes 20.  I think I'm quite slow but all the advice is telling me to go slow, as it's not about speed, it's about mileage.   On Saturday evening, I did a 10K, but did this at 10 minute miles.  It was fine, quite cruisey, apart from not enjoying running late at night on my own in the freezing cold, but hey ho, that's what I suppose marathon training is all about!  When you have two kids at home, you have to fit in the training around them and I'd rather run guilt free to be honest!    Anyway, my question is this....Hal Higdon says that my long runs need to be slower than my marathon pace.  If by going even slower, then what pace do you run on the actual marathon day?    Do you run slightly faster on marathon day or do I just keep to the slow pace I have ran my long runs at?  I don't want to run a marathon on 10 minute miles, as I want to be fit enough to at least go for a 9 minute mile pace.  Is it possible to get faster during all the months build up or do you plateau, just to ensure you get the mileage in?   Thanks guys


  • If you do your long runs at marathon pace (race pace) then you will be too wrecked to race on the big day. Your long runs are done after a full weeks training week in and week out.

    On race day - you've trained hard, and tapered well - you will be rested and full of energy.

    Currently your 5k time has you down for a 4.15 marathon. But as you get fitter - your 5k (and the rest of your race times will improve)

    Keep the training up and get a 10k race and a half marathon planned in. Much more accurate to estimate your goal from a half than it is a 5k.

    Keep it nice and steady - I do my long runs about 9 min miles but race closer to 7.5 min miles.
  • Yes, I'd say slow down your long runs. My 5k time is similar to yours, so these paces may be helpful to you: for my recent marathon my marathon pace was about 10 min/mile and I did my long runs between 10.30 and 11 min/mile.

    As cougie says, if you do all your long runs at MP, you'll be wrecked by the time you get to the marathon. Also, for maximum training benefit, you want to do your long runs well below the lactate threshold. I know it seems counterintuitive to run slower than you intend to for the marathon, but trust the training plan - it works.

  • Oh, and just one more point. Your predicted time might well come down over the next few months so don't waste time worrying about what pace you want to go at on race day now. We all have times we'd like to be able to do, but you have to train at what you can do now and you can revise it later.


  • Don't worry about predicted times at all at this stage. I guess the schedule has some training times as well for the training runs? What do they say? Never race during a training. During the long runs in a marathon schedule the goal is NOT to improve your speed, but only to get your body to adapt and improve on the use of energy during a run. Preferably fat burning. If you run too fast, you simply train something completely different than you want to train at this stage and you will just become tired... and more tired and eventually you will end up with an injury as well.

    I would not even set off with a target time for the first marathon.

    What is your running history so far? How many HMs and 10K races did you run untill now and how many years you have been running? Was the 5K time a race or during training?

  • I've only ever ran one half a marathon and that was back in 2011.  I finished it at 2:10, but I know I could finish at around 2 hours now.  I am fitter and stronger now.  I haven't entered any other races.  My 5K time was on a treadmill.  There are quite a lot of tourists around the City sometimes for a quick lunch time run, so treadmill is easier - less traffic lights too.   My running history?  Good question - I've been running on and off (around two pregnancies) for about 6 years.  About 15 years ago I was a fitness instructor and I taught classes for about 10 years.  I train about 6 days a week.  I run 4 times a week and I also weight train.  I do however have really sore hips (going to my GP in 10 mins to get a physio referral - so I'm probably already injured!)  The Physio I know has ran 10 marathons and is partially blind.  He has treated me before for sports related injuries and always does the trick.  So there you have it.  I probably over train already....however going forwards, I'm going to really take my time and forget about my pace.  Don't you find that everyone always asks 'what's your expected finish time?'  I'm doing an 11 miler on Sunday, so I will just really go for a plod and not get to obsesses with my minute miles.  I will try anyway...thanks for the feedback guys...

  • Sounds you are pretty active! Hope your hip will be Ok soon and that it is a false alarm. Just pick up the schedule again and be careful with speed work in the beginning. You have a running history, but you are still building up again (if I understand correctly) after a while of less running. Stick with the training pace from the schedule and be realistic about the 'goal time'. Just answer 'finishing before dark' when anyone asks your predicted time image

  • Hi Pipski, I did my first marathon this year and would echo what others have said re not thinking about a target pace too soon. I'd really recommend building some races into your schedule, even if just a 10k and a HM as they are a great way to track your progression and nearer the time to help work out what your marathon pace should be. My actual pace turned out to be two and a half minutes per mile faster than the pace I had predicted from the entry form the year before so it's definitely too early to start thinking about pace now.

  • Hi Pipski - I echo the advice above regarding predicting a finish time - too soon to judge.  I have only run one marathon and I injured my knee exactly a month before the race.  I had to take a whole month off from running (which made me a little bit crazy if I'm honest!) but decided I couldn't reach the finish line at all if I couldn't make the start.  So, my ambitions shifted from planning a 4.30 finish to avoiding the sweeper bus.  I actually finished in 5.06.  And had the best day out in years.  Good luck with it all.  Great to hear you sounding so positive and pumped up about the whole thing.

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