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How to Pace a Marathon

Marathon pacing can account for 14% of your perfomance (marathon time) on the day of the event, so it imporant to get right. But, what is the optimal pacing method?

Pacing is about the regulation of your physiological state and the decisions you make (cognative) based off your physiological state, with the aim of maintaining a certain race pace. Pacing ability may vary between person or level ability. For example, women tend to be better pacers than men and more experianced runners tend to have a more optimal pacing stratagy. There are three main type of pacing stratagies, negative split, positive split and even pacing summaried below.

Pacing Type


Negative Split

Second half of race is faster then the first half.

Positive Split

Second half of race is slower than the first half.

Even Split

Pace is constant (or the same) throughout the race.

A lot of you have probably used a positive split race where you felt lots of excitement at the beginning of the race then go off to fast. Or some of you may have held back for the first while then increased your pace towards the end. Well neither of these strategies are optimal for marathon pacing.

To get the most from your performance you should be aiming for even pacing. This means you need to choose (or predict) what you think will be the pace you can sustain for the full duration. You base this pace of your target time and training data.

Follow this example to help you. Imagine you are 6 month back from your marathon day last year you achieved a time of 3:10 (hrs: mins) so this year you want to go 2:59 (hrs: mins). Your target pace is 4:15 mins/km or 6:51 mins/mile, therefore your training needs to be build around this number.

You should try marathon race pace workouts (or tempo runs) once per week to help this. However, when analysing your training data ensure you check your heart rate for cardiac drift (an increase in HR for a the same pace). If you are noticing a lot of drift (and it’s not due to heat or dehydration) it may be the case your target pace is too hard and needs to be lowered.

So part of pacing is having the wisdon on the day to hold your self back and not go looking for the pain but waiting for the pain to come to you. But, its also about how you prepared for your race pace in training and dont forgot to pace evenly.

Good luck with your race, if you need help selecting your marathon pace you can veiw the guide linked below.

Or if you want BCA to help you find your race pace for you drop us and email and add BCA to your TrainingPeaks account


Add to TrainingPeaks acount link:

See are other marathon articles below:


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