Why you need to pace yourself

ABP Newport Marathon Festival | NEWPORT, WALES

When it comes to long distance running pacing is so important – particularly if you’ve got a target time in mind.

When you’re racing it can be easy to get swept up in the atmosphere and carried along by other runners – especially at the start. But setting off too quickly can leave you flagging in the second half of your race.

To help shed some light on how to best pace yourself, Run 4 Wales Race Director and double Olympic marathon runner, Steve Brace, shares his tips:

Finding your rhythm

To avoid burning out in your race by starting off to quickly you need to have an idea of how fast you should be running and this should be based on your training runs. You should have worked out what your ‘race pace’ is – which is the actual pace you can hold for a specific duration rather than your goal pace. For a marathon this should be at a much lower effort level to that of your mile which should feel much harder because of its shorter distance. The talk test is a great way to determine this – if you can hold a conversation while you’re running, this is deemed a comfortable pace. Even paced running is the best way to achieve your goal, although it is important that you’re honest with yourself and are realistic on what time you can achieve.

How to stay on pace

Write your race splits (pace for each mile) on your hand and try to keep as closely to this as possible (There are lots of free pace calculators that can do this for you online based on your estimated finish time). Checking your watch at mile markers will allow you to adjust your speed if you’re running too fast or too slow – although make sure you start it when you actually go over the starting line yourself, rather than from when the starting gun fires.

Run with a pacer

There will be a team of pacers across the distances, so find the one who is running about your target time and try to stick to them or keep them in sight. This will also take the added pressure of having to check your watch away as well.

Think about whether you should run with someone

Although it is a good idea to train with someone, you should always run your own race.

Don’t arrange to run with somebody you know, because everybody goes through a bad patch at different times. Months of training could go down the drain if you finish much slower than you anticipated simply because you felt obliged to wait for a partner. Slowing down and waiting for someone will alter your stride pattern and could lead to you having problems.

What if you start to struggle?

Not every run is our best and when it comes to race day and you feel yourself struggling to keep your pace, draw on your surroundings to help. Take in the cheering crowds, have a chat with a fellow runner or distract yourself with some music – it will help to take your mind of your fatigue for a few moments. However, if you’re really struggling or in pain, don’t push on regardless as you could cause yourself an injury. Listen to your body and know that there will always be another race.

End of the race

The ABP Newport Marathon Festival is famed for its fast and flat course, helping many secure a PB. While it’s advisable not to start off too quickly, if you feel you have something left to give towards the end of the race you can always pick up your pace then. With the finish line in sight you can try to dig deep – although be mindful of muscle cramping if the increase in speed is too fast. Instead, gradually up your tempo and keep an eye on your breathing.