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How fast can you run your next marathon? 

If you’ve run a marathon previously, then you at least have a benchmark. But historical performance doesn’t guarantee future results, especially since you might be running a hillier course this time, or you might be returning from injury, or your last marathon result might have been years ago. 

Having a target finish time, and the correlating pace per mile, is essential to running your best marathon. It’s important, too, that your target time is realistic and based on supporting evidence from your own experiences. Without an appropriate time to shoot for, you’re susceptible to a slow second half after going out too fast and hitting the dreaded “wall,” or not achieving your best time after starting too leisurely. (Although the latter possibility is much less likely. How often do people really start a race too slow?)

If you’re gearing up for a marathon this fall, there are some tried-and-true ways to determine the pace that’s right for you on race day. Here are some suggestions on how to predict an appropriate marathon finishing time (and pace per mile).

  1. Try a Marathon Time Calculator. If you’ve run a shorter race, and provided that you were well trained then and will be well prepared for your marathon, you can use a Marathon Time Calculator to forecast an appropriate marathon time. For example, if you finished a 10k race in 55 minutes, and you run about 50 miles per week, your predicted marathon time is 4:20:34, or just under 10 minutes per mile. This should simply be a benchmark as you begin training.
  2. Race a half marathon, then multiply. Again, provided that you are well trained, there’s a general formula to predict your marathon potential based on a half marathon result. Once such formula is to multiply your half marathon time by 2.19. So, if you’ve run a half marathon in 2 hours, or 120 minutes: 90 x 2.19 = 262.8 minutes, 4:22:48. That’s about 10 minutes per mile.
  3. Yasso’s 800s. The legendary Bart Yasso devised a deviously painful way of calculating a marathon finishing time: 10 x 800 meters with equal rest. This big training effort has proven quite accurate in predicting marathon finishing times. If you can run 800 meters in 3 minutes and 30 seconds, followed by 3 minutes and 30 seconds of rest, and repeat it nine more times, then you should target 3:30:00 for your marathon finishing time. That’s just over 8 minutes per mile.
  4. Ditch the splits, and run at perceived marathon race effort. Rather than focusing on mile splits, try running by feel. During a training run, warm up with a few easy miles and then run 6 miles at perceived marathon race effort. Don’t look at your watch and stay in control–marathon effort isn’t 6 miles all-out! (Easier said than done.) Check your average pace after and then calculate your finish time. For example, if you average 7 minutes per mile for the effort, your estimated finish time for the marathon is 3:03:32.
  5. Test your paces in training on race-similar terrain. Every marathon course is different. To get a true sense of your appropriate pace for race day, seek out terrain as similar as possible to the race course. After a warm up, run 6-12 at your target pace per mile. (Beginners should stick to the lower end of the range while advanced marathoners can extend this to the far end.) If you can’t hit your target splits, re-evaluate your projected finishing time. If the splits come easy, perhaps you should target a faster time for your upcoming race. 

Looking for more tips ahead of your fall marathon? We have two more articles publishing soon. Stay tuned for more ways to run your best marathon this fall.



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