For the first time in, oh, 40-something races, I am very, very confused about how to pace myself for my upcoming half. Maybe you all can help?
Good race advice.
See, in all my previous races, my training was very matter-of-fact. I always felt good when I ran, I always wore a watch, and I could 100% count on my training as an excellent indicator for how fast I should run on race day. But here’s the problem: this time around, I don’t feel like I can confidently say, “Well, I ran all of my training runs at 9:45, so I should aim to do the race in 9:30.”
That’s because 1) sometimes I ran when I was low on energy from crazy baby nights, took a lot of walking breaks, and ended up clocking very slow miles as a result; 2) sometimes I ran really fast because I only had X amount of time to run before I needed to get back to Henry; and 3) I usually ran without a watch. When I did wear a watch, I was faster than I expected to be. And I trained exclusively on really hilly Charlotte roads, and my race is in flat-as-a-pancake Florida. So I feel like my training performance is super skewed and weird.
When Megan came to visit, we talked about this issue a lot. I threw out the idea of running a half marathon on my own, as fast as I could, just to see how I should pace on race day. She immediately shot this idea down, arguing that I’d be asking to be burnt out on race day. After all, long training runs are meant to be completed a bit slower than race pace. This article as a good explanation of why, but here’s a blurb:
If you can talk while you’re running the long run, you’re at the right effort. If you can’t, you’re running too fast. Avoid trying to run the long runs by a pace or target time. This sets you up for the race pace training disaster where you feel great for about four to six weeks, then things start to crumble when your energy levels decline, your body aches, and performance begins to suffer.
Instead, Megan suggested that I run shorter long run (…you know what I mean) at a quick pace and see how I feel. I’ve been doing a bit of research and think this might be a good game plan. Greg McMillian, a running coach for elites, backs up Megan’s usual race plan, suggesting that runners “measur[e] a loop that’s half to three-quarters the distance of your event and practice running it at your goal pace.”
Of course, I could be totally overthinking this whole thing. I could just run the race as fast or as slow as I feel like it that morning, but I’m terribly afraid of starting out way too fast and burning out at the end or starting out too slow and finishing with too much gas in my tank.
I really want to do well and walk away feeling proud of myself because I probably won’t do another half for a while. In hindsight, I wish I had been more diligent about timing myself throughout training because I really have no idea how fast I’m capable of running 13.1 miles. I know lots and lots of runners never use watches, but I’m so accustomed to it that I feel like I’m going into this race blind. On a brighter note, although my training has been a bit screwy and my long runs have sometimes felt like a total drag, I do feel really good overall about my ability to finish the race with a smile on my face. I may not know what pace to run at to achieve my best overall time, but I do know that I’m not going to epically crash and burn. Which is nice.
I’m going to test of Megan and McMillian’s theory later this week and do a 8 miler at what I think is my race pace. But I may adjust that pace depending on my performance for tomorrow’s long run, which I’m going to approach with a smile on my face, a good fueling and hydration plan, and dedication.
Runner’s World has a fun tool that allows you to print out pace bracelets to help keep yourself on track for race day. Here’s a pace bracelet for a 9:30 Half Marathon:
As a side note, I went on a run this morning and it was so strange NOT to worry about my long hair getting all tangled! Yay for short hair. Also, Henry was trying to pull on it when having a bottle this morning and couldn’t grab it. Double yay!
As I stare thoughtfully off into space , let’s discuss: Race Pace. What is yours? How do you calculate? How much slower do you run long runs? Do you not even bother to calculate your race pace at all and just prefer to go by feel?
PS – Happy wedding day, Meals and Miles! Wish I could be there!