Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Did anyone race?
This post is part of a series on tips, workouts, and training for your best marathon. To catch up on the Marathon Mondays series, you can see the previous posts here.
Many runners enter into marathon training with a goal time in mind. Even if you are not training for a PR, you will still have a general idea of the approximate pace that you will be able to sustain for 26.2 miles. Whether you are hoping to run a PR or just want to finish, pacing during your marathon is essential for a successful and enjoyable race.
With all the excitement and nerves that permeate race day, the marathon itself certainly is not the right time to run your goal pace for the first time. Instead, you want to incorporate goal pace runs into your marathon training to run your best and fastest marathon. Even if you are training for a shorter race, you can still benefit from adding miles at your goal race pace to your running.
Why is goal pace training so effective? Let’s examine the mental and physical effects of training at goal pace.
Train Your Legs
Over the course of a 14-18 week training plan, a weekly run at marathon goal pace will improve your running economy at that pace. If you’re training for a 4:00 hour marathon, 9:00 minute miles will feel a lot easier on race day if you’ve run them regularly before. It’s simple physiological adaptation: the more you run at a given pace, the more time your body has to adapt to that pace. In addition to improving your running economy at marathon goal pace, this training will increase your overall endurance by working your aerobic system, building a stronger heart, and increasing your capillary density. As you build your endurance and your economy at marathon goal pace, your body will learn to burn more fat as fuel at that pace, which can prevent you from bonking during the later miles of the race.
Train Your Brain
One of the most common marathon pacing mistakes is going out too fast, which will lead to hitting a wall and slowing down during the second half of the race. You are tapered, adrenaline is pumping through your veins, and a cheering crowd and hundreds of other runners surround you, making it all to easy to run faster than intended. By incorporating regular marathon goal pace runs into your training, you will internalize how your goal pace feels. On race day, then, you will be able to better control your pace, especially during the easier first few miles. Long goal pace runs will teach you how to control yourself and keep a consistent pace.
Internalizing your marathon goal pace will also build your confidence for race day. Running 26.2 miles, especially if you are aiming for a PR, can intimidate even the most experienced runners, and your mental state can make or break your race. Goal pace training serves as training for your brain as much as your body. If you have regularly run 10 miles at your marathon goal pace during training, then you can confidently know you are fit enough to maintain that pace for the entire marathon. That knowledge will power you through many of the later miles, when feelings of fatigue could cause you to doubt yourself.
Train Your Stomach
Poor pacing and self-doubt are not the only factors that can derail your marathon goals. GI distress can cause cramping and frequent bath stops, both of which will dramatically decrease your pace. While you can never guarantee that your GI system will behave perfectly on race day, practicing your race day nutrition during marathon goal pace training runs will adapt your body to take in calories in general and, more specifically, your particular brand of fuel, while running at a faster pace. This will also help you practice actually opening the packet and eating the gel or chomps while running fast, so you do not have to worry as much about dropping gels or choking on your fuel on race day.
You can also use goal pace runs to practice your hydration strategy, ensure your outfit will not chafe that day, and test out your shoes. Goal pace runs can and should serve as a rehearsal for race day!
While training at marathon goal pace offers a myriad of benefits, you want to be careful not to overdo it during your training. Running at marathon goal pace too frequently can lead to overtraining; even if you do not end up injured, you could end up leaving your race in your training and run significantly slower than you have trained for on race day. Many training plans, including the Hansons Marathon Method, devote one day per week to training at marathon goal pace.
Portland Marathon Training Week 4
This week of training went smoothly and according to plan. One aspect of training with which I have been struggling is my goal pace runs. I’m not struggling to maintain an 8:00 minute per mile pace; I’m struggling to slow down to that pace. I keep settling comfortably into a 7:40-7:45/mile pace and I am fairly positive I could not maintain that pace for a marathon, especially based on my previous half marathon times.
Monday: AM: 8 miles on the treadmill (1-2% incline): 2 mile warm-up, 6 x 800 meters (3:31, 3:30, 3:30, 3:29, 3:29. 3:28) with 400 meter recovery jog, 1 mile cool-down. PM: 15 minutes of core work.
Tuesday: AM: 6 miles easy, 9:04/mile. PM: 30 minutes of strength training.
Wednesday: 9 miles with 6 miles at goal marathon pace (7:41/mile average). Definitely my best run of the week!
Thursday: 6 miles easy, 9:10/mile. PM: 40 minutes of strength training and core work.
Friday: AM: 8 miles easy, 8:49/mile. PM: 20 minutes of easy Pilates.
Saturday: AM: 8 miles easy on the treadmill (0-2% incline), 8:49/mile.
PM: 7 miles of hiking to Lake Serene in the Cascades, ~2000 feet elevation gain. Definitely our most challenging hike to date and I loved it.
45 miles total for the week.
Questions of the Day:
How was your running last week? What was your best run?
How frequently do you train at goal race pace?
What is your goal for your next race?