"I’ve been doing my 'race pace' runs faster than my intended race day pace. Is this okay?"
I've been following a marathon plan that has a marathon-pace run one day a week. I'm aiming for a 3:45 time, so I need to run an average of 5:20 per km. Instead I've been doing these runs at 5:00 per km (or a bit faster for the short ones). Should I stick to 5:20, or is it okay to run a bit faster if I feel up to it?
– Bruce Thirkell, NZ
COACH MEL SAYS:
THE RIGHT PACE(S)
Hitting the right pace in training is the key to performance.
During any given week you will be doing sessions that are SLOWER than race pace (e.g. your long run). But you will also do sessions that are FASTER than race pace (e.g. tempo, fartlek and interval training).
Each type of training serves a purpose: Long runs teach your body to build more efficiency, so it learns to burn glycogen, fat as energy. It also helps build more capillaries or pathways to transport vital oxygen to the pumping muscles. If you were to do your long run at race pace, you would not gain that effect, plus you would be more tired all week. That tiredness results in slower training in 'speed' type sessions, and thus you would not gain the benefits of speed training.
YOUR RACE PACE
The best indicator to current form is based on a recent 10K or half-marathon. You can basically take your half-marathon time and multiply it by 2.2 to estimate your marathon time. This number you end up is an average one, based on thousands of athletes.
In your case, Bruce, I would like to see what times you hit in other sessions. Do you do any repetitions over one or two kilometres? If they are lower than 5:00 per km, I would be say you may in fact hold 5:20 per km comfortably enough for 42.2km.
The best tip is to start a bit slower than 5:20 per km, build to 5:15 per km, then see if you slow down or hold this pace. Generally for all runners, the marathon’s second half is slower than their first (Kenyans the exception, but they average over 150km a week!).
Keep me posted with your training and how your marathon goes.
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