Pacing Strategy: Richmond Marathon 2014

Four days until the 2014 Richmond Marathon and my “taper crazy” phase of marathon training is setting in. For me, this phase is often filled with self-doubt, nerves, and this insatiable need to DO SOMETHING. This is also the phase where I freak out and start bothering my running coaches with a million questions and ignoring their reassurance that I am ready.

This time, I have decided to try to channel my energy into a more positive exercise – planning my pacing strategy for the marathon.

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I was texting back and forth with Laura, my running buddy also running the Richmond Marathon, about different pacing strategies for the race. Specifically we were discussing whether to try to start out slow and shoot for negative splits or just to keep a consistent pace. Based on experience, negative splits plan may not always work, especially in a marathon. In previous marathons, we both have started out slower thinking that we will speed up later… But once we hit that 20 mile mark, the fatigue inevitably sets in and the “speeding up” never happens.

Our goal time is 5:30 (12:35 mins/mile avg). Laura mentioned that she is going to try to stick to that pace the entire race. And fortunately, our friend Kim had ordered all of us Marathon Pace Bands for wearing during the race so we can make sure we are on track:

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When Laura and I got done texting, I felt good about that plan… And now, 24 hours later, I am re-thinking it.

Looking back at my last two races, the Nike Women’s Half Marathon and the Leesburg 20k, I noticed that I ran negative splits in both. I also felt great in both races. I know it’s a long shot for the marathon distance but why change a pacing strategy that is working for me.

For both of those races, I mentally divided the race distance into 3 mile “chunks.” I told myself to conquer each chunk at a time and progressively increased my level of effort (not pace).
First 3 miles: super easy (able to carry on full conversations)
Second 3: easy-moderate (able to speak in short sentences and/or phrases)
Third 3: moderate (one or two word answers)
Fourth 3: moderate-hard (please don’t talk to me)
The Finish: give it my all running

So after all the pacing discussions and the cute pink pace band… I have decided not to wear the pace band and to stick to my “race by feel” strategy.

Planned Marathon Chunks:
First 5 miles: super easy (full conversations)
Second 5: easy but focusing on quicker turn over with my foot strikes (can still speak in sentences)
Third 5: moderate (able to speak in short phrases)
Fourth 5: moderate (without a doubt, this will be the toughest part of the marathon. There is a huge hill at Mile 16 and in my training runs, this is where I fade mentally. So while the level of physical effort remains the same as the previous chunk but the mental effort will need to be increased.
Fifth 5: moderate-hard (please don’t talk to me)
The Finish: IT IS ON!

I guess in four days, I will find out how this “pacing” strategy works out! I’m ready.

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