Pacing Your Half Marathon

Okay consider this the Reader’s Digest edited version of an article I found on by Jeff Gaudette that was excellent though a little long. I’m still chasing a half PR (I just want 1:4something!) and thought his tips on how to pace yourself when really racing a half were very helpful! So here are the best parts of his article.

“To race your best, you should focus on running a patient and conservative race over the first 3 miles, relaxing during the middle miles, and then attacking the course for the last 2 miles.”

“Interestingly, every world record from the 1500 meters to the marathon has been set running negative splits—running the first half of the race slightly slower than the second half.”

Pacing Over the First 3 Miles
“You should target a pace that is 5 -10 seconds per mile slower than your goal finishing pace for the first two to three miles…you will easily make up these seconds by being able to close the last few miles fast as opposed to fading and crawling across the finish line.”

Pacing for Miles 3 Through 11
“At 3 miles, begin to increase your pace and effort so you’re running at goal half marathon pace. If you’ve practiced this pace in training, it should feel like a comfortable rhythm for you.

Be aware that you need to increase your effort to maintain the same pace or run faster as the race goes on. As you get more tired, it gets more difficult to keep running faster, so you have to try harder. Many runners make the mistake of thinking that the same effort at mile three will net them the same pace as it will in mile 11. Unfortunately, with each mile your legs will get more tired and it will get harder to remain on pace. Be conscious of this reality and maintain focus.”

Pacing the Second Half of the Race
“As discussed previously, after 5 miles, the pace is going to start getting hard—it’s part of racing the half marathon. Be prepared for this part of the race mentally and it won’t derail your confidence mid-race. Keep you mind and body relaxed. Look within yourself and focus on you. Think confident thoughts and repeat confident mantras to yourself: “I am fast, this feels good” or “I am strong.” Every time you feel tired or feel the pace slip, repeat to yourself that you need to refocus and concentrate and get back on pace.”

The Last 2 Miles
“With 2 miles to go, keep your head up and start to try and catch people in front of you. This part of the race is going to be hard if you want to PR, but you can use some mental tricks to make it easier and to keep you on track:

• Pick one person and focus solely on reeling them in, nothing else. As you pass them, surge and put your eyes on the next person and repeat. Imagine tying a fishing line to their back and reeling them in.

• Visualize fast runners when you start to hurt. Imagine yourself running just like them with good form: head straight, arms swinging forward and back slightly, powerful strides. Just having the mental imagery of good form can help you maintain your pace when the muscles become increasingly tired with each step.

• If the pace starts to slip, throw in a surge to get your legs fired up again. Sometimes all it takes is a small burst of speed to reinvigorate your legs and pace. Try incorporating surges during your long run in training and it will be easy to execute this strategy on race day when it matters.

• Finally, try to break the remaining distance into bite-sized and easily digestible pieces. …sometimes a mile can seem like a long distance, so break it down into a time instead. Thinking you only have four to five minutes until you hit the halfway point of a mile makes it seem a lot easier.”

After a few weeks of hating running (thanks, 90+ degree days for most of June and July!), this article actually made me excited about a fall half marathon! What are you planning to run this fall? Why not join Team OneVerse and run for an eternal cause!


2 responses to “Pacing Your Half Marathon

  1. Great post. I would only be careful not to think 5 or 6.5 miles are the half-way point. I personally think of mile 8 or 9 in the half and mile 18-20 in the full since that is a better gauge of how you feel to run a neg split.

    • I agree. Even though 6 is technically the halfway point, I think mile 9 is the halfway point in terms of effort. You have it exactly.

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