Over the past week, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into my pacing strategy for the New York Marathon. I haven’t run this marathon before, but from my understanding it is a pretty challenging course because of the hills and five bridges you cross. This makes coming up with a pacing strategy somewhat difficult.
I have an ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ goal going into this marathon. My ‘A’ goal is to run 3:10 or better. I feel this is a realistic goal given my fitness level, although it will be a challenge. My ‘B’ goal is to run a sub 3:15, which will still be a Boston Qualifying time. The ‘C’ goal is a sub 3:20, which would be disappointing, but still a respectable showing. Regardless of the three goals, my pacing strategy will target my ‘A’ goal. I will only adjust to the ‘B’ or ‘C’ goal late in the marathon if it begins getting ugly or if the weather is significantly less than ideal.
I think there are three primary approaches to a pacing strategy: (1) go out a little faster than marathon pace and try to bank some time and pray you don’t break down too early; (2) go out very conservatively and run a negative split; and (3) run an even pace throughout the entire marathon. There are advocates for all three approaches, but from the research I’ve read, running even splits throughout the marathon seems to be the most effective. From experience, I’ve tried (1) and (3) with mixed results. However, between the approaches, there is a significant difference in how you feel at the end of the marathon. When I have gone out fast, the end of the marathon was a suffer-fest and not an enjoyable experience. Running a negative splits was much more enjoyable at the finish, but I always wondered if I left some time on the table because I went out so conservatively. I have attempted to run even splits, but I believe I overestimated my fitness level, and could never maintain the pace the entire marathon.
I have decided to try and run a relatively steady pace throughout the New York Marathon, although that will be difficult on certain areas of the the course. When reviewing the elevation chart, it appears miles 8 ~ 10, miles 15 ~ 18, and miles 23 ~ finish have some significant hills. I may have to adjust pacing where I lose time on the uphill, but make some of it up on the downhill. To run a 3:10 marathon, I would need to average a pace of 7:16/mile (4:31/km). Since I want to run a sub-3:10, I will attempt to average 7:15/mile (4:30/km) and keep my pace in a range of 7:05 ~ 7:25/mile (4:24 ~ 4:36/km).
I have my trusty Garmin 405 GPS watch that I’ll be able to rely upon to keep me honest. I have set it up so it will click off my splits for each kilometer and also keep track of my average time per kilometer. I used to have it set up with mile splits, but found working in kilometers was more effective since it provides quicker feedback on pacing – I feel the mile is a bit too long to wait in order to make adjustments.
On race day I’ll also try to follow Josh Cox’s marathon advice on pacing, which has been my downfall for too many races.
“…Start conservative and when you feel good, don’t pick up the pace… the next time you feel good, don’t pick up the pace… the next time you feel good, don’t pick up the pace, the next time you feel good… you get the picture. Once you’ve completed 3/4 of your race, you can let ‘er rip…”