"I'm building up to my first half. What's a realistic finish time?"
Recently I started the Runner’s World 10-week program (July issue) building up to my first 21.1K, the Blackmores Half-Marathon. My wife helped me work out a schedule around my soccer training and weekly Saturday games. So far so good. But I have a question: I am 50 years old, I eat well, I weigh 83kg, I am 183cm tall, and I don’t smoke or drink. If I follow your program, what is a realistic finish time for a half?
– Bruce Litterick, via email
COACH MEL SAYS:
The only way to predict a finish time is to look at your current training and racing history. The best indicator to current form is based on a recent 10K or half-marathon. Take your 10K time and multiply it by about 2.2 – this figure depends on your race experience, fitness, body composition, etc., but 2.2 is an average number based on thousands of athletes.
Hitting the right pace in training and then on race day, is key to performance. So what pace should you race at? In your case, Bruce, I would like to see what times you average in your long run and in other sessions – do you do any repetitions over one or two kilometres? For example, if you hold 5:30 min/km in a long run, but run at around 5:00 min/km in a faster session, I would deduce that you may hold 5:20 min/km comfortably for 21.1km. (Generally – for most runners, except elite or very experienced athletes – the second half of the race is slower than the first.)
For you, Bruce, my best tip for race day is to start a bit slower than 5:20 min/km, build to 5:15–5:20 min/km, then see if you slow down or hold this pace. If conditions are very hot (as it was last year in Sydney), then aim for a slightly slower time as well. The heat impacts on your heart rate – it increases to cool down the body.
Keep up the training and, really, just enjoy your first half-marathon. Just getting through the training is a great achievement, with the event the result of your hard work!
If you’re reading this and you would like to find your target ‘race pace’, submit your training/race times in the comments section below, and I can calculate it for you.
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