Marathon training: Learning to pace myself

I’m running my first marathon at Newport in May and having to teach myself about running all over again. One thing I’ve learned from reading about marathon running and marathon training is that you MUSTN’T GO OFF TOO FAST.

Going off too fast is just what I do. I do it at parkrun and I do it in half marathons. I figure I might as well push myself while I’ve got the energy and get a few fast metres or miles in the bag. I will naturally slow down as the race progresses, but nothing will take away from me the fact that I’ve gone fast at the start.

With marathons, that is a really bad idea.

Of course, when you start running, you will feel like you’ve got all the energy in the world. But that ‘all the energy in the world’ has to keep you going for 26 miles and sustain you for four hours or more. I know that I can feel good for 13 miles. With training under my belt, I might feel good for 18 or 20 miles, but inevitably I will hit that point where I don’t feel good. And I need to know that I have the energy to get beyond that and make it to the finish line.

So I knew I needed to learn to pace myself for a marathon.

To give you an idea of the sort of pace I run, it’s what I describe as ‘pretty good for a normal person’. I’m not a club runner or an elite athlete, I’m ‘just’ a middle aged mum who likes to run.

I run parkrun between 7:15 and 7:30 minutes per mile. I run half marathons between 8:15 and 8:30 per mile and I run my regular runs (whether four miles, eight miles or more) between 8:30 and 8:45 per mile.

Knowing that I can run that fast, knowing that I need to slow down and knowing that I’d like to run a marathon in under 4 hours 30, I’ve settled on my marathon pace as 10 minutes per mile. That feels slow to me, but it also conserves my energy and will still (all being well) get me across the line in a very respectable time.

So for every long Sunday run and every run on my training plan described as ‘steady’, ‘light’ or ‘easy’, I’m running at 10 minutes per mile.

Training plan, Marathon training plan, Running, Learning to pace myself

It’s not as easy as it sounds to maintain the pace and it’s taken me a few tries to get it (almost) right. One minute I will be maintaining my steady pace, then I will notice I’ve dropped to 11 minute miles, so I will pick up the pace what feels like a bit, only to discover I’m suddenly running at 8:30 per mile. But I’m sure I will have got it right by the time 5th May rolls around.

One thing I have noticed is that, although I don’t find running hard, my legs do generally feel less tired and more relaxed running at a 10 minute mile pace. So I’m hoping I’ve found the right pace for me.

I’m very excited about the prospect of running a marathon and I definitely see it as my first marathon, not my one and only marathon. If the 10 minute miles work well, I’ll try 9:45 or maybe 9:30 next time.

If I’m honest, I’d love to do a marathon in under four hours, but first I will just settle for running my first marathon and crossing the line in one piece.

Training, running, Marathon training, 365, Learning to pace myself

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. I think you are amazing as I really struggle to pace myself. Also you very much under-estimate yourself. Maybe a club for a few weeks would do you good lol – as even a 10 minute mile is considered pretty good – you are really rather fast.

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    • Thank you! I don’t think I underestimate myself, if anyone asks how fast I am, I describe myself as ‘pretty fast for a normal person’ ie not an elite runner or a club runner, just someone who has been running for many years and gradually improved over the years. I always think that joining a club would be the only way to get quicker and I would never say never, but it would be hard to fit into my life right now.
      My husband thinks running at 10 minute miles is really slow, and it probably is for a man, but I tell him there’s plenty of people who would love to be able to run at 10 minute miles and we’re lucky that it comes easy to us.

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