Putting Marathon Pace Calculators to the Test
How can I set a realistic goal without prior marathon experience to base it off of? I know how long it takes me to casually run 16 – 20 miles in mid-summer Mississippi heat but does that translate to a marathon race in October? Luckily, people smarter than me have figured out how to predict marathon race time based on previous times from shorter races. A Google search for “running pace predictor” and a previous half marathon time (or two) are all that’s needed to get started.
For this experiment, I’ll use my most recent half marathon times. These races were run two weeks apart in April and in very different conditions. The Pensacola Beach Half Marathon was flat but hot and very humid… 2:06:16 9:33/mi. The Renaissance Half Marathon was hilly but the weather was great. I also had the benefit of running the last 7 miles with a faster friend pacing me… 1:54:33 8:45/mi.
Plugging in my times, I get:
|Half Marathon time||1:54:33 8:45/mi.||2:06:16 9:33/mi.|
|McMillan Running||4:01:35 9:14/mi||4:26:18 10:10/mi.|
|Running Times||4:03:26 9:17/mi||4:28:20 10:14/mi.|
|Runner’s World||3:58:50 9:07/mi||4:23:15 10:03/mi.|
|Running for Fitness||3:59:12 9:07/mi||4:23:26 10:03/mi.|
The results are kind of surprising. Even the most conservative prediction has me finishing in under 4.5 hours. I’d be thrilled with that! Before I ran the numbers, I was thinking 4.5 – 5 hours should be my target. Now I’m thinking I should push the pace just a little and shoot to break 4.5. As much as I’d love to be in the sub-4 hour category, I just don’t think it’s realistic…this time. I expect to be running around a 9:00 – 9:30 pace with occasional walk breaks to average 10:00.
Planning a Fueling Strategy to Avoid the Walls
I’ve practiced my fueling strategy throughout months of long runs and, for the most part, I know what works for my body. I learned the hard way what doesn’t work well. Gatorade and Gu become sickeningly sweet on long runs to the point that my body rejects either. That’s not good when you’re counting on it to keep yourself fueled. I like plain water for hydration and Vanilla PowerGel for carbs/electrolytes. To me, the taste of Vanilla PowerGel is kind of neutral…not great, but definitely not offensive. It also has more sodium and Potassium than other gels which is another good thing since I’m doing without a sports drink.
I usually take a gel every four miles and drink 16 oz of water every five or six (depending on the heat). My plan is to carry a water bottle and refill with plain water at the water stops. I mentioned last month that a weakness in this strategy is the need for supplemental electrolytes on hot days. (see I Found My Walls) I’m hoping the weather will be cool enough that this won’t be a problem but just in case, I’ll be packing some Endurolyte capsules.
A total of 6 gels should get me to the finish. I hate the taste, but half of the gels will be Strawberry-Banana because they are caffeinated and the Vanilla gels are not. Alternating between the two should keep me alert and moving without creating stomach problems.
Goals, Goals, Goals
This is my first marathon, barely more than one year from my first painful (and painfully slow) attempt at running more than a few feet. I’ve already accomplished more than I could have imagined a year ago, but I’m not done. I’ve trained hard and I know I’m ready, but I’ve still got to DO IT. That’s my primary goal. Run, walk or crawl 26.2 miles before the race director closes the course.
My goals, in order of importance and likelihood of success are:
2. Finish < 5 hours
3. Finish < 4.5 hours (this will be my target pace)
4. Finish marathon plus an extra 5 miles to complete my journey from couch to 50K. (Maybe one day…)