Race Day Pacing Strategy

Now that you’ve done all of the training, and put in the miles and miles of leg work to this point, it’s time to complete the race.  If you’ve ever been at the start of a race you’ll know the adrenaline and the excitement that is pumping through everyone’s veins!  It is all too easy to get caught up in this buzz when the gun goes off and sprint from the start line!  BIG mistake!!  In distance running there are a lot of miles to complete, so getting your pacing right is important.

In a full marathon the race doesn’t really start until the second half, so pacing during the early stages will set you up for a great second half.   But if you get it wrong you’re in for a very long (and painful) race.

The most effective way to complete a race is to run even, or even better, negative splits across the distance.  Even Splits throughout the race mean you’re running each kilometer at the same pace (from the first all the way through to the last).  Negative Splits mean that you’re actually getting faster throughout the race so the second half of the race is faster than the first half.  It will fill you with confidence if you’re the one overtaking people at the back end of the race, rather than the one being overtaken because you started out too hard when you were feeling fresh.  The reason most people ‘hit the wall’ in the last 10-15 Km of a marathon is because they went out too fast in the early stages and can’t maintain that for the full 42.2 Km.  A second reason may also be not fueling correctly as discussed in last week’s blog post.

We recommend breaking the course into 3 sections – approximately thirds.

1) In the first section you want to feel like you’re constantly holding your pace back just a little bit.  Run cautiously over this portion to conserve energy for the rest of the race.  If you go out too quick in this section, then the rest of the race will become very hard!  Giving back a few minutes in the first section of the race can save you 10-30 min in the back half.

2) During the middle section you should pick up your pace to feel like you’re at your race goal pace. This will be a pace that you can hold for the full distance and what you should have been using in training.  It should be a little faster than your first section.

3)   This section depends on how well you paced in the first 2 sections and how you’re feeling on the day.  If you’ve paced well over the first 2 sections and you’re feeling great, then this is where you ‘drop the hammer’ and go for broke!  Since you were cautious on the first section you now have that extra energy saved and can give it your all making up those few minutes (or more) from the first section.  Alternatively, if you weren’t quite as good at pacing over the first section, or you’re just having a bad day, then this is where you hold on for dear life until you make the finish line.

Being cautious during the start WILL allow you to run faster in the latter stages of your race.  You don’t want to be walking to the finish line, so make sure you pace yourself correctly.  We do not advise running on race day by heart rate as it will be artificially elevated due to adrenaline, excitement, lack of sleep, etc., so is not an accurate indication of your intensity at that time.  Therefore we recommended running by pace or, if nothing else, by feel.

Now you’re equipped to run the best race of your life!  But don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.  Good luck!

Written by the Peak Centre’s very own Lewis Morrison (M.SC. Sports Science, Director of Sports Science).

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