Determining your pace for a race can be a daunting task no matter your level of experience. For the beginning runner, often the distance of the event is the challenging part and completion is the main goal. As we progress, sometimes we set time goals for ourselves and then must determine how to sustain a certain pace during a race. To develop a feel for race pace, it is important to use pace runs during a training cycle to determine what an appropriate race pace would be for your goal race. I would suggest that you choose a pace (with maybe a 5-10 second window range), run that pace for as long as you can (ideally the length of the pace run) and at the end of the training session you can evaluate if your “race pace” for the day was appropriate.
There are three main ‘styles’ of pacing that are most commonly found and used. Finding the pacing strategy that works best for you is important. Even pacing to negative splitting are the two types of pacing that Big River Training Team prefers to use depending upon the runner. We will be examining the different types below.
Positive Pacing: Don’t let the name fool you! Positive pacing is a strategy that we all have fallen into during a race. Positive Pacing is probably the most common style as runners are often excited to race and start at a pace that is faster than the average goal pace. Early in the race a runner’s adrenaline can play a key role in starting the race too fast. Remember, that your marathon pace should feel easy for the first part of the race. A pace you plan to run for hours is supposed to feel easy for the first few miles. Overall, this plan is the most risky and the least effective as more often than not, the early fast miles end up leading to some really slow miles in the final stretch. Even if the runner “banks” several minutes, that time is often lost over the course of just a few slow miles run after the runner hits the proverbial “wall.”
Negative Pacing: This style of pacing is probably the most difficult as it requires a great deal of patience as well as mental toughness as the runner must be prepared to increase the pace after an hour or more of running which can be a challenge. The option can be successful but only for runners who have run negative splits in training runs.
Even Pacing: This is the safest way to run a personal best especially if you practice this style in your training. Our training team “pace runs” are designed to practice this strategy. My advice is to give yourself about a 5 to 10 second window around your goal pace and try to run at that average pace for as long as you can. Even pacing avoids the risk of running too hard early in the race and hitting “the wall” too soon and it also doesn’t force you to run a pace that is significantly faster than your goal average pace after hours of running.
Pacing properly can be difficult and it is a learned skill. Incorporating race pace practice runs into your training can help you be more successful and prepared on race day!
—Bryan Traughber, Big River Training Team Head Coach