By Joseph Beckerley- Performance Strength Lab
A question I often get from runners is at what pace they should run a marathon? It often comes in the form of "If I can now run a 1/2 marathon at this pace, what should my marathon pace be?" What they are asking is for me to predict their running performance. A simple answer is to take your 1/2 marathon time, double it and add 10 minutes.
In reality it depends on the variables which include weather, the course elevation profile, event day readiness and the type of runner you are. This is why it is important to learn your body cues, heart rate training zones and perceived exertion during your training.
A good coach can help you to determine your lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) and set training zones for you. At Performance Strength Lab, we strive to be the best coaches in our field. We approximate your average running pace when setting LTHR, which allows us to put more specific pace numbers to your training zones, helping you run your best marathon and any other distance you chose. Furthermore we discuss interval, tempo and speed training with you to help you reach your running goals. If you are told to go run a 7:20 pace marathon, the race could easily go badly for you. An example: you are running your 7:20 pace on the flat part of the course. You are pushing hard and feeling great. You believe you can continue at this pace with effort for 26.2 miles. You then come to a steep hill and you try to maintain this same pace. You are now working harder and your body is telling you to slow down. If you don't, you risk over exerting yourself and dying out at the end of your race, potentially walking the end. If you are familiar with the Boston Marathon, you will recognize that this is where so many racers go wrong. They are set on a single race pace, but then at mile 16-17 they hit the Newton Hills and start to climb. At mile 20 they hit Heartbreak Hill. They are unable to keep their set pace and they over exhaust themselves. They walk across the finish line.
I believe when trying to PR a marathon or any race there is a mental aspect that comes into play as well. You have to keep a strong mindset to maximize your performance during the race and push through some exhaustion. You can read how I personally prepare my mind before and on race day in my article Mindset of an Endurance Athlete.
Now back to predicting your race performance. Jack Daniels, PhD, developed what he described as "oxygen power" tables to help predict performance. Dr. Daniels is among America's most respected sports scientists and coaches. These tables were created by doing treadmill and track measurements on runners of various abilities and collecting available data on other runners. Daniels was able to relate max VO2 scores to performance. With these tables available, a runner can predict with some accuracy running speeds at distances from a mile to a marathon.
On average, studies show these types of tables offer a reasonable estimate to aid most runners in predicting marathon performance, but calculations involving humans with differing abilities can be inaccurate. Not everybody sits comfortably at the top of the bell curve. Some runners are born sprinters; others are born marathoners. The best thing you can do as a runner is to talk to an experienced coach to set up proper running and training zones as well as realistic race goals. For help with reaching your running goals contact us today Performance Strength Lab!