How do I know what pace to run in my half marathon?

I’m running my third half marathon and wondered what your thoughts were on pacing strategies.  I want to break 1:55 – should I go out with the 1:50 or the 2-hour pace group? ~Thanks, Jeff

The best predictor of your race day performance is the consistency of your training compared with the paces you’ve raced in 10K events leading up to your target half marathon.  That said, there are so many variables that can effect your race day performance, I rarely suggest going by a specific pace on race day.  Doing so can lead you to under-performance and in more cases pushing too hard.  For instance, if you ran a 10K four weeks out from your half marathon at an 8:50 pace and you then set your plan to race this exact pace for the half marathon – but it is 10 degrees warmer and you have a headwind for the entire course.  Comparing performance from one race to another is like comparing apples to oranges – it just doesn’t work.  It can give you a range of where your fitness is, but never an exact number.

The best way to pace is by your body.  The best way to train is by your body.  That is, tuning into your breath and running in the right zone on the given day.  The key to racing successfully is to not get caught up in making the number one race day mistake – going out too fast.  When you run like the hare, your mind begins to fade due to fatigue and low energy stores and things just keep getting worse with every step.  When you run like the tortoise, you conserve the energy for a strong finish.  And when that happens, you can run faster than imagined – and go fishing.  Fishing = passing people nicely in the final miles of the race.  It keeps your mind actively focused, lifts your spirit and is so much fun.

A Timeless Challenge.  I’m putting out a Timeless Challenge this season.  One that challenges you to run to the tune of your body and breath rather than your watch or pace.  You can still wear your watch, but only for reference of the outcome – not as a source for pacing.  If you want to go hard core (highly suggested) try racing without a watch or a digital watch.  Your mind can do funny things when you look down for approval.  If it is slower than you want, it stresses you out.  If it is faster than you want, it stresses you out.  Run without it and free yourself from knowing, stressing and tap into your inner GPS.

Pacing by your body.  Break the distance into three equal parts.  Run the first in the yellow zone or at an effort where you can talk easily.  Run the second part in the orange zone or an effort where you can hear your breathing, but you’re not pushing real hard (moderate).  Finally run the third and final part in the red zone, where you can hear your breathing more loudly and you’re pushing hard.

Keep in mind you can win the race but not earn a personal record.  You can lose the race and earn a personal record.  It’s not about the time, it’s about the win.  Run strong…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Walters February 25, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I’m in the NYC half on St Patrick’s Day. I’ve run 3 half’s so far with “questionable” times. I’m 67. Grete’s Gallop was best at 2:24:23. I’m going to try your way…..no watch/divide by 3. Thanks for the new idea!!!!!

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Ken June 24, 2014 at 5:12 am

I’m going to run my fisrt 1/2 marathon in October?I’m on a 16 week training plan and my race predictor says I should run a 2:08:07.do you have any suggestions how to time the segments to reach this goal.I,m not experienced so have no idea if a comfortable pace is on target.

thanks for the help Ken

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