There are races where we conquer and others where we learn. In 2011, I distinctly remember going out very hard at the Sydney Half Marathon. One massive error, pre race, was throwing my bag on the truck with gels still in it! The second error was my pace. When the gun went, I took off as if I would win. I could see the lead group of females just in front and I running ahead of the 80min pace group. My training indicated I could run a 82-85min, but that early quicker per km pace, cost me by half way. It was also an extremely hot day, by Melbourne standards, so the body was working in overdrive and I was cooked! I slipped back to the next pace group and the last blow was another pace group passing with 4km to go. That was a physical and psychological blow, to finish, 8mins slower than my PB. But every race is a lesson, and here are some key tips to ensure you pace it not race it!
Why pace it?
Simple answer: is to ensure the greatest efficiency over time. A car works a lot more efficiently on the highway that in the city, with all those stops, starts and accelerations. Our bodies system (or engine), is much the same, we want fuel efficiency. If we can keep the heart rate steady, without sudden spikes, this will work best for energy. If you imagine you go out a lot quicker than what you have done before, then you body burns a lot more fuel and will slow pace in the later stage to make up for it. Also, if you suddenly change your pace, in an attempt to make up lost ground. Instead, make up time over next 5km not within the next km. TIP: Start a bit easier and building into just under is the ideal pace (within a range of 5secs per km is best).
What pace to choose?
This is where logging your training becomes key. As a coach, I look at rep times, the range and average. I also look at race history to determine goal pace. As a rule of thumb a 10km time is indicative of a half marathon time by roughly 2.16-2.2. For example: if you have run 50min for 10km, you’re predicted half marathon time is approximately 1hr50mins (5:38/km pace).
Factors to adjust the target:
- heat, this means you will need more energy to sweat and keep the sytem cooler, so add 5secs/km. Dehydration/electrolyte imbalance can affect performance by 10%, so drink more electrolyte (look for magnesium, potassium and sodium).
- Extreme cold, you go out too hard and risk muscle tear, due to the inability of the muscle to lengthen when not supple/warmed up.
Hilly vs flat – this is where specific training is vital. If it’s hilly course you need to do your sessions over undulating terrain. For hill running: Slowing down the average speed but maintain turn over on hills (it can really spike you heart rate, burn more!).