Pacing.... Why and how to get it right

One of that hardest parts of running to master, we can sprint no problem, we can run slow too with no problems. But just like the bears porridge, getting it just right is not so easy.

No matter what distance to run or race, be it 800m, a Parkrun or a marathon, going off too fast is going to cost you later on, so understanding our pace will always pay dividends.  The most economical way to run any distance is to run even paced the whole way, running the second half in the same time as the first half is ideal, maybe even being able to run the second half faster, whats called a negative split, would be perfect.

Women are better at pacing than men, sorry guys, but it's true...

In a study by Strava of pacing at the London marathon in 2017, 92% of all the runners ran the first half faster than the second half.

It was found that men ran the second half of the marathon on average 17% slower, while women ran the second half 11% slower.

Another study by Run Repeat of the six marathon majors between 2009 and 2019 (over 2 million race times) found that men ran the second half on average 1:32 min/mile slower and women ran the second half 0:55 min/mile slower.  This study pointed out that women are 18.33% better at keeping an even pace than men.

Again on average this shows that we all ran the first half too fast.

Here are two ways to practice your pacing

  1. Run an out and back route that is level terrain, you don't want to run out all uphill then back all downhill or vice versa.  The idea is to run for a given time, i.e. 20 minutes (10 minutes out and 10 minutes back).  You should end up exactly where you started if you got your splits rights.  If you 10 minutes back didn't get you to where yous tarted then you most likely went too fast on the way out.  If you went further in the second 10 minutes then you probably went too slow on the way out.  Practice this and see how your pacing goes.

  2. This second one is a really good way to practice race day pacing.  Pick a flatfish route, again out and backs are fine or a loop.  Something around 1km or 1 mile is good.  You will do 4, 5 or 6 or more repetitions of this run.  You're looking to run each one in exactly the same time, with a recovery of 1-2 minutes in between.  If you're looking to run a half marathon in under 2 hours for example, then you want to do each of your kilometre reps in 5:41 or mile reps in 9:10.

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