Pacing Strategies For The Marathon - Why Going Too Fast At The Start Never Pays Off?

Pacing Strategies For The Marathon - Why Going Too Fast At The Start Never Pays Off?

You know where the phrase “like you’re running a marathon” comes from? It is because when the starter gun goes off, there is a drive that makes you want to hit the pavement with force and never look back. Most of us have visions of grandeur of leaving the rest of the pack in the dust. But, does a good pacing strategy mean going all out for 26.2 miles, or does it mean finding the best pace to help you conserve energy while still expending it?

According to studies conducted on marathon runners, the faster you start, the slower you are likely to finish. If you start out trying to outpace the crowd, you run a high risk of hitting a wall. In fact, people who typically hit the wall start out in the top 20% of the race-pace pack. Even though most who have had some sort of training have been told that starting out going too fast will tank your efforts, only about 15% of runners start out running at a conservative speed instead of full speed ahead. 

Keeping pace is important to success

So, the evidence is clear, starting a race too fast can decrease your overall chance of survival. But, that still begs the question, what exactly is too fast? The first way to determine your race-pace is to get an average of how quickly you run a mile. Your race-pace should start and finish at the same pace to be the most successful. For instance, if you run a nine-minute mile on average, throughout the race, then you should start at a nine-mile pace. If you go less than that you run the risk of increasing your overall time. If you run faster than that, then you run the risk of hitting a wall, and, likewise, deteriorating quickly. 

Ironically, when you start off running slower than your average race-pace by just 10%, you increase your time. But, not as much as if you run quicker than 10% of your average. What is evident is that starting too fast is a bad idea. With the adrenaline running high, and so many people surrounding you, it is easy to get carried away and try to get out in front of the pack. Like the rabbit and the hare, however, being out in front doesn’t guarantee a good time or that you will finish at all.

Newbies may have a harder time with pacing strategies than seasoned runners

Typically, pacing yourself too fast is a mistake made in less experienced runners. It is hard to gauge how fast to start when you are running your first race. Being something you haven’t done before, running your first marathon is exciting enough. Add the crowd, potentially friends and family watching and all the hard work you have done to train and get to the starter’s line and it is hard to temper yourself or not try to go full speed. 

Running a marathon is something that takes a lot of energy and stamina. It also takes the ability to listen to what your body is telling you. If you use up too much of the energy that you have right out the gate, then you are burning it way too quickly, and won’t have it toward the last third half when you really need it. Haste truly does make waste for your race-pace.

The best advice is to try to run a marathon as you train for one. Don’t get caught up at the moment and make the goal to beat everyone and make it to the finish line in record speed. If you are a newbie, make the goal to make it over the finish line just as you have trained and planned for. If you run it slower than expected, let it be a learning experience and adjust it for the next race. In the end, it isn’t about how fast you cross the finish line, but that you accomplished finishing a marathon.

Should you run with a pace group?

Many people consider whether they should run with a pace group. There are some people who are die hard independent runners and like to go their own speed while others like to talk and enjoy the camaraderie of running with other athletes. There are also some who benefit from the encouragement of running with groups. 

Research shows that running with a pace group does have an impact on race times. What it shows it that finding a pace group that is in line with your pace can significantly affect the success of you running at your targeted rate on the day of the race. It also shows that having a group may also help you to run the race quicker than training and pacing yourself alone. In fact, runners who run with a pace group are as many as five times more apt to achieve their optimal running time. 

The advantages of running with a pace-group

It is also more likely that those who have trained with a pace group are more apt to finish the race than those who don’t. When you run with a pace group on the day of the event, runners are also more liable to even-split the run, meaning that they pace themselves the same during the first half as they do the second. That increases their success of crossing over the finish line. 

Overall, if you are considering running with a pace group, it may be a good idea. The key is to find a group that matches your natural pace. If you try to keep up with a group that is out of your league, just like pacing yourself too quickly at the start, you are more probable to either burn out or to finish much slower than if you don’t run with a pace group. An additional benefit is that a pace group can be very encouraging and help to keep you on track, literally, not only for training but for race day. If you like the companionship of running with others, it is a good idea for you to use a pace group. If you are a loner, it may not do much to keep you going. A personal decision, a pace group, may or may not be a good idea.