At this point in training, it’s natural to eye the calendar - looking ahead (with a mixture of excitement, anxiety and confidence) to October 8 when we toe the line for the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Our perspectives (and our goals) have likely changed since Memorial Day weekend when we ‘officially’ embarked on our training ‘journey’. We have either improved beyond what we thought possible at the beginning of the season, or we may have fallen a little ‘off track.’ Either way, now is a good time to reassess our goals and to find our marathon “race pace.”
I raise this point now, because many of you have asked how to set a realistic time goal for Marathon Day.
Some of the questions - “What is the difference between my long run ‘training pace’ on Saturdays and how fast I can (or should) run on Marathon Day?”
“How do I determine how fast I should be running on Marathon Day?”
“How do I run the marathon faster than my Saturday ‘LSD’ (long slow distance) pace if I haven’t been running faster all season?”
For many of you who are running your first marathon, and especially those who are fairly new to running, the long, slow distance pace of the Saturday long runs IS your marathon pace. You are training your body by building the endurance to run 26.2 miles on Marathon Day. Your efforts will be rewarded with a finisher’s medal on October 9 (and with a very satisfied smile on your face)… and there is no pressure (and no need) to run any faster on race day. Enjoy the experience and savor the accomplishment.
For others, the goal of achieving a particular finish time is beginning to come into focus. Review the goals set at the start of the season. Ask yourself, “Are those goals still realistic? Can I run faster? Should I run faster? Or do I need to adjust my goals to a slower race pace in order to finish safely?”
So how DO you determine a realistic Marathon Pace?
Our race day predicted finish time should be a realistic and achievable goal. Use objective criteria, based upon the results of your training to date, and preferably, race finish times (from other ‘events’ in which you may have participated) throughout the summer. Look at recent race results; compare those finish times and distances to predictors for the marathon distance. One such predictor calculator can be found at: http://www.marathonguide.com/fitnesscalcs/predictcalc.cfm.
In addition to these predictor calculations, check your training logs to see how you felt at the end of the long runs this season. If you have consistently noted you could have run longer at the LSD pace, coupled with the predictor, you are in good standing. If, however, your training logs noted that you often struggled to maintain the pace during the training runs, and felt completely spent at the end of the training run, that is an indication that the training runs have been a bit too aggressive.
You’ll note that the pace per mile for these ‘predicted’ marathon finish times will likely be faster than the LSD pace of Saturday long runs—especially for ‘veteran’ or improving marathon runners. For these runners, your speed component is developed on the shorter runs during the week—specifically ‘tempo runs’ and ‘speed workouts’. These shorter workouts are paced faster than our goal marathon pace to improve our bodies’ endurance and speed. And since these are shorter than the long weekend runs, we are able to recover more quickly from these more intense workouts.
For veteran and improving marathon runners, the pace for marathon day should be set somewhere between your LSD runs and the speed/tempo runs--generally, between :45 to 1-minute quicker per mile than your weekend ‘LSD’ runs. (But again, for ‘first time’ marathon runners, your Saturday ‘LSD’ training pace IS your “race pace”.)
Examining our current physical condition and “preparedness” will help us establish a realistic and achievable race goal, and the correct race pace. If you have run races (any distance from a 5K to a half marathon can be a good marker) during the summer, use the predictor to set realistic ranges for race day. If you have not run any races, run a few midweek workouts at an established distance (for example, 5K or 10K distance) and check the predictor.
Once a Marathon Pace is identified, we’ll have the opportunity in the remaining weeks to practice running a portion of our long Saturday runs at Marathon Pace as another check on how realistic and achievable we’ve set our goal.
Examining fitness levels and reviewing objective criteria helps to establish race day goals which are specific, measureable and realistic.
“Good form will carry you through”®