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Very short: what is the best pace strategy for a Marathon?

A little longer: usually when I participate in a race (10 km, 15 km or HM), I tend to run the first part of the race at a pace that is 5-10 seconds slower per km than my target pace. And then make up for that during the rest of the race.

But is that a good strategy for a Marathon as well? Or should you aim at the same pace throughout the race?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

That is also the recommended strategy for marathons, if you are going for time. Analysis of top international runners shows that they run the first half of the race slightly slower than the second half.

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1  
I have been looking for some references. Do you know of any? –  Tonny Madsen Feb 11 '12 at 9:01
    
I have read the above in a book. I'll try to find it. –  Peter Eisentraut Feb 11 '12 at 17:57

I think your general strategy is great, but I would allow for a bit slower start. For the first 2-3 miles I would run 30-60 seconds slower than race pace. Most recreational runners don't warm up properly before a marathon (not wanting to burn off energy that will be needed in three hours!), so this is a crucial time to get your body moving and ready for the effort to come.

If anything, this accounts for the reality of the first mile, where congestion will often slow you to a crawl. Some runners "lose" 30 seconds of time in the first mile due to trying to zig-zag through the slow people that inappropriately seeded themselves in the front of the chute, and then they stress about making up that time in the first 10 miles...and they pay for it at mile 23.

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I just have to warm up properly first ;-) I'm afraid, I'm too competitive by nature to allow myself to loose even 30 seconds due to bad preparations - especially when it is so easy to do right... For the seconds part, the good news is that a lot of the European Marathons include pacersetters - a number of very dedicated runners that run at a very specific pace - e.g. 4:30 min/km or 5:40 min/km - usually with big balloons with their designated pace printed on. See copenhagenmarathon.dk/wp-content/uploads/IMG_4821.jpg –  Tonny Madsen Feb 11 '12 at 20:24

I prefer to run the second half 1-2 minutes faster then the first. When it is not hot, I can and do manage that.

Unfortunately, the weather might object. It can get up to 20 degrees hotter by the time I get to the finish line. If that is the case, I just maintain the same level of effort, so that I do not hit the wall.

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I would definitely go for a slightly slower first half. I tried once to keep a high steady pace throughout the whole race and it didn't work well (Copenhagen 2010).

I think the psychological effect is huge. When you decide to kick in your slightly faster pace, you start to advance slowly and that helps bigtime on motivation.

The opposite, to see people start to run faster than you, because you have started a bit fast and maybe started in the wrong pacegroup at the startline, that will kill you mentally.

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