Determining Marathon Goal Time

Determining Marathon Goal Time

Marathon season is fast approaching. Spring races will be upon us before you know it. You’ve done a bit of easy running to stay in shape over the winter. And now you’ve signed up for a 26.2-mile race… What happens next?predict marathon pace (1)

If you’ve run a marathon before, you have some prior knowledge about what it takes to successfully complete the full distance. But if this is your first one, you might have little clue about what to expect.

Finding Goal Pace via Past Performances

It’s best to gauge your upcoming performance off of prior experience. Look at the training you did when you set your last PR. Are you in, or will you be, close to that type of shape again? If yes, plan on being able to realistically reach for a PR over 26.2 miles. Again, it’s not guaranteed, but if you are in PR shape over a shorter distance and you do the work required of a marathon, it’s possible.

newport half marathon
newport half marathon start

Finding Marathon Training Pace via Racing

Taking the marathon distance serious, you’ll need to incorporate workouts into your running routine. Both threshold, tempo, and long runs are integral to running a good marathon. But how does one know what pace they should do these runs at?

Use your race performances to guide your workouts during the marathon build up. There are many calculators and pacing guides on the internet, some of which I strongly suggest you look up and figure out how to use.

Jack Daniels created Vdot charts – they are fairly accurate over the longer distances. Find your race performance and its associated vdot number. Use that vdot number to guide your paces for various workouts.

Dr. Jack Daniels

McMillan calculator – very popular and accurate for various race distances (including “odd” distances).

Coach Greg McMillan

Cool Running – will give you a basic calculator for finding (400 and mile) splits of popular race distances.

Finding Goal Pace via Racing

Racing/running in a longer race (ie: 10k, 10 miler, or half marathon) prior to the race (6+ weeks prior to goal race) will give you a good indication of what your marathon goal pace will be. Use this non-peak race a dress rehearsal for the big day. It is suggested that your non-peak race be at your goal marathon pace. This pace should feel easy as you aren’t going the full distance, plus the type of effort(/pace) a marathon requires isn’t all that difficult – the distance is what makes it difficult.

Pacing at the Start of a Race
Pacing at the Start of a Race

Finding Goal Pace via Confidence

If your training progresses the way you expect it to, your confidence should automatically grow with each passing workout. The more you are able to “stack” (ie: put in consistent running over time) workouts and long runs over weeks and months, the better your peak race will be. There is no secret to running, except it takes a lot of running to see results.

Use races & training to predict marathon time
Use race performances to predict marathon goal time

Good, quality long runs, with some of it at goal marathon pace, will help you reach your marathon goal time. Adding in strength training to your routine, including core work and body weight routines, will allow you to “carry” your body efficiently over the 26.2-mile course.

Proper nutrition will play a key role in how you do on race day. Not just your intake on marathon morning, but the better you eat throughout the months preceding the race will play a factor.

Getting enough rest (marathon training requires more sleep than a “normal” adult). 8+ hours a night is adequate if you plan on performing well.

So there you have it. Some of what it takes to run a successful and productive marathon. There are quite a few links throughout the post, so click through to read more about the 26.2 race distance. If you have questions about something I wrote, let me know!

Here’s our podcast episode about the marathon topic as well!


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