Take control of the pace at your next half marathon
There’s more to running a half marathon than just getting from A-B. If you want to run a fast half (or even get a PB!), you need to think about each section in between: the miles (or kilometers), the minutes, and the change in pace.
If you haven’t started thinking about how you will pace your half marathon, we’re here to help.
Why Does Pacing Matter?
As anyone who’s ever run a race knows – a lot can happen once you cross the start line! Even the slightest change in minute-per-mile pacing can mean missing out on a PB, or getting under 2 hours. It’s a thin line, and pacing makes all the difference. If you know how to pace yourself throughout a half marathon, you can accurately predict your finish time, and correct your pace throughout the race to get back on track.
And pacing matters to your body, too. Running just a few seconds faster (or slower) than your goal pace will change how your body utilises energy. Knowing how to pace yourself is an expert technique that will benefit first-timers and novice runners too.
The Best Pacing Strategy For Half Marathon
Half marathon races should be run at around your lactate threshold pace. Any faster than this, and your aerobic system won’t be able to keep up with the amount of waste (including lactic acid) building up in your muscles. Stay in your lactate threshold for most (or all) of the race. The exception to this is picking up the pace at the end, but only if you can.
Start the race at a pace which is slower than your goal half marathon pace (5 to 10 seconds per mile). This is important from a physical perspective, but also psychologically. If you hold back in the first few miles, you can speed up to your goal pace and really feel like you’re dominating the race – even though you’ll actually only be speeding up to your own goal pace.
Training For Half Marathon Pace
Use your mid-distance training runs to work on pacing. (Short runs are too intense, and long runs are for getting miles into your legs.)
On runs of 4-8 miles, start at 10-15 seconds per mile slower than your goal half-marathon pace. Then run the middle miles at goal pace. Then run the final mile at 5-15 seconds per mile faster than your regular half-marathon pace.
Example Pace Session
So, if your finish goal is 2 hours, you would need to hit 9:09/mile at an even pace. Try this for a your pace sessions.
5 miles – run mile 1-2 at 9:19/mile, mile 3-4 at 9:09/mile, mile 5 at 8:55/mile
8 miles – run mile 1-2 at 9:24/mile, mile 3-7 at 9:09/mile, mile 8 at 8:55/mile
Learn To Feel Your Pace
One final bit of advice: learn to “feel” the differences in your breathing, your body, and your effort levels as you change the pace. Listen to your body during training runs and shorter races, and record this information like you record other run data. Monitor your breathing rate, exertion level, the turnover of your legs (and arms), and even your temperature. It’s all valuable feedback which will help you adjust the pace without constantly monitoring your watch.