My first marathon pace run

As the title indicates I did my first “marathon pace” run this morning. I think this is essentially the tempo run of marathon training, meaning you’re teaching your body how to hone in on your race pace. Can you tell I’ve been reading a little bit of Hansons Marathon Method? On a side note, I hope there is a marathon #2 and I hope to use the Hanson Method to get me to that starting line, because I am intrigued by what I have read so far. But for now we will focus on marathon #1 and the Runner’s World training plan I am currently following.

Today it called for 4 miles with 2 at marathon pace (MP). Sound simple enough, except that I really haven’t decided on a goal time (my goal is to finish) and I have no clue what pace I should run. So I started by consulting Mr. McMillan and his running calculator. But right away I found that I wasn’t sure what to plug in to the calculator. Should I use by half marathon PR? Should I average my worst half marathon with my best time and use that? I wasn’t sure, but I settled on using a time that I have finished a number of races in or around: 2:10. The calculator spit out 4:33:35, a 10:27/mile pace, as my predicted marathon time. I decided to round down to an even 4:30 and thus set my marathon pace at 10:17/mile.

Funny thing about 10:17 pace is that it’s slower than the pace I do most of my shorter, easy runs. So that probably means I’m running my easy runs too fast. It also means this version of a tempo run, with my middle miles being at MP, is not nearly as intimidating as the “traditional” tempo runs I have done, where they are more focused on speed.

So with all of that figured out, I headed out for my 4 miles with 2 @ MP. I did my first mile as a warm-up around the campground and watched the people who drag their beach stuff out at 6 AM to get their spot on the beach. No picture, sorry. But here’s one of the Pines area within the campground, looking in the direction of the ocean.

After my warm-up, I headed out onto the Kings Road path for my 2 miles at MP. The pace was comfortable, but I had a tough time. I stalked my Garmin the entire time and kept slowing down and speeding up accordingly. I would look at my watch and see 9:48 pace and slow down then look again and it would say 10:55 pace and then I’d speed back up. This faster/slower pattern went on the entire two miles. Good thing I have weeks to practice my race pace. Miles 2 and 3 ended up being 10:11 and 10:13, respectively. And to go along with my very first marathon pace run, I took my very first running selfie.

So in addition to learning to lock in on a 10:17 pace I also need to work on smiling like I’m actually happy to be running. At least I didn’t trip on anything.

Overall, I found this run pretty easy. I know that in the weeks to come these tempo runs will get longer and it will probably get more challenging. But I would also hope that a pace I intend to maintain for 26.2 miles would feel relatively easy for 2 miles. I don’t necessarily want to hold myself to a time goal for my first marathon, but I also need something to aim for in training. So for now I will forge onward with 10:17 burned into my brain. And since I’m at the beach, here’s a picture of the ocean when I got back from my run.

I guess I shouldn’t take pictures looking directly into the sun?

Am I on the right path figuring out my marathon goal and thus my marathon pace? For those of you who have run a marathon before, how did you decide what to aim for on your first marathon?

Do you ever take “selfies”?
Clearly I need practice.
When you’re on vacation do you like to sleep in or get up early?

21 Comments

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  1. I’m impressed with your selfie skills! That’s not bad at all!

    I’m struggling with the same issue when it comes to settling on a final marathon goal! I have several different goals, and depending on race day conditions, I probably won’t decide which pace group to line up with until race morning.

    Right now my marathon training is going really well, especially the tempo & speed workouts. I’m excited but trying not to put the cart before the horse. Or to totally freak out because I’ve been down this road before and then I kinda blow up the last 10K of the race!

    1. Thanks! Maybe I’m a natural?? 🙂 I hope you get your marathon goal hashed out. I am really still not all that sure, since it’s my first. I can’t wait to see how you do in Richmond!!

  2. That’s an awesome running selfie, and I love the flying ponytail! I took my first selfie in the car on our ride down here. I was reading blogs on my laptop and thought it would be fun to share that in a post…

    My goals for my first marathon were pretty lofty, so I’m always apprehensive about sharing pacing advise for first time marathoners. Your suggested 4:30 marathon sounds like a good starting point. You can train accordingly, and then on race day if you’re feeling really good, you can pick it up toward the end of the race if you have it in you. If I were you, I would be hesitant to run my daily runs slower than you have been already. Yes, your long runs should be a minute or two slower than marathon pace, but it doesn’t make sense to me to slow your other runs down.

    1. Thanks and congrats on your first selfie! We are true bloggers now 🙂

      I think I am going to keep most of my weekly runs around the same pace I usually do them (typically anywhere from 9:40 to 10:10/mile depending on how I feel). However, I really like the idea of dedicating one run a week to running my MP for the middle miles. I want that pace to be automatic during the first 20 miles of the race so that I don’t have to think about it or stalk my Garmin and I definitely don’t want to go out too fast.

  3. On vaca. I almost always get up early to get my run in. This is especially true when I’m somewhere that is hot and humid! This summer, I got some great running in, in Colorado and South Carolina on vacations. Check it out on my blog: agratefullifelived.blogspot.com

    1. I definitely love the feel of heading out to the beach for the day, knowing my run is in the books.

  4. I’m not a professional or anything, but I think your calculations sound right. The most important thing you can do is NOT choose a goal that’s out of reach. I was really tempted to choose a time that was translated to a significantly faster half than I’ve ever run because I figured I had a lot of time to train so had time to get faster while increasing my mileage. But you really have to be honest with yourself and look at a few of those MacMillan-type calculators. In the end, I ran pretty close to what MacMillan predicted based on my half PR (which are really PRs, because I always seem to run a 2:04 or a 2:10!). So that’s all my way of saying choose a time that’s realistic and not a time that you think sounds good. I think my goal pace was perfect for me!

    I pretty much agree with everything the Hansons say, but I especially like their marathon pace runs instead of faster tempos. Fast tempos used to KILL me and were so intimidating and made me feel terrible when I failed. Marathon pace miles were way less intimidating AND allowed me to get a feel for what it felt like. I think running at that pace is very valuable.

    Your face is seriously relaxed in that picture. And no blur! That’s a pretty great on-the-run photo, I’d say!

    I wish I could say I wake up at 6 am every day on vacation, but I really don’t. I try to wake up earlier but usually by the fourth day or so I’ve just got to sleep in.

    1. I really like the Hanson logic behind marathon pace runs. I think my face was relaxed because I was about to fall asleep!

  5. I’m impressed you even have a marathon pace in mind. My first is in October and I had a pace of 5 hours-which is much slower than my usual run pace because I just think the marathon is going to be HARD. But after struggling through the first month with the hip/butt issue (which is gone thank God)-I’ve gotten rid of the goal all together and hope to beat the street cleaners.

    My running pace is anywhere from 9:30-10:30 depending on the day, distance, wind-but marathon training had been so hard mentally on me-I had to take it all off the table and just get used to the physical demands of the training.

    But then I’m a lot older than you.

    You are doing great

    1. Thanks! You are doing great, too. I am enjoying following your marathon training.

  6. I’ve never run a marathon, but I think that sounds like a good plan to find your pace.

    I really enjoyed my race pace runs when training for my last half. Eventually my body just naturally fell into that pace on runs, which is the whole point! It’s also nice to start out low and then gradually build up the mileage to it! Sounds like oyu’re right on track!!

    1. That’s what I’m hoping for! I want to head out for a marathon pace run and just have it be automatic.

  7. I think maybe your race pace is a good idea however you should try to maintain the speed you have already built on long runs and the 13.1 and carry the 9:56 -10:05 paces into the higher mileage long run 15 16 even 17 miles and quit looking at your watch its tool but speaking from experience it will really start to hurt you constantly worrying about pace love the blog

    1. Thanks, Barry 😉 I’m hoping by learning to run my MP now I won’t be stalking my Garmin when it comes to race day.

  8. Reading this post was like reading EXACTLY what I’ve been feeling about my marathon. I’d love to finish at around 4:30, finished just under 5:00 last time, and I run lots of shorter runs in the 9:30 – 10:00 speed.
    Your selfie is impressive. Today I bit it trying to turn my head to tell Glenn’s cousin something. Embarrassing. Totally Embarrassing.

    1. Oh no! It’s so embarrassing when you fall while running. I always jump back up saying “I’m okay!” before I even know if I’m okay or not.

  9. I’m amazed that you are able to take a clear picture while running! That’s a great shot! I am not good about knowing pace, either. That’s tough to do I think. Maybe in a few years.

    1. I think it was the luck of the first selfie or something. I’m sure the next one I attempt will be all blurry and I’ll be like “what the heck??”

  10. I’d say you did a pretty good job figuring your goal marathon pace. The only thing I would add (and I’m not sure it changes your calculation) is to use a race for which you specifically trained. If you hop into a half marathon without much half-marathon specific training, then you may be selling yourself short by using that to estimate a goal marathon time – since you WILL be specifically training for the marathon. [And of course, conditions are important. Using a half-marathon run in cool, breezey, 55 F may not be a good predictor of a marathon pace for Singapore.]

    That said, you can always adjust your paces as you continue training. For example, if you will be running a 10K or half-marathon part way through your training (I actually often suggest this to my runners), then you can use that race to adjust your training paces, too. In fact, Jack Daniels (my guru) usually says to adjust to one level faster in his programs every ~6 weeks. Of course, such adjustments are only a few seconds per mile.

    Finally (before I write a book here), I’d suggest taking your Garmin’s reading a bit more lightly. I’m not sure of your exact settings, but the pace your Garmin gives you at any second is a pretty bad approximation of your overall pace. A few possible ways to get around this:

    1. “Check in” with the pace frequently, but only make very slight adjustments. Take a more “global” average in your head.

    2. Go to Settings > Running > Smoothing, and choose the most “smoothing” setting – this will reduce the number of spikes you see and may give you a better overall average pace. [This may vary, depending on the model you have.]

    3. Adjust your Garmin to take a “Lap” every quarter or half mile, rather than every mile. Then, don’t pay attention to the second-to-second readings, but only check the “Lap” pace when it comes up.

    Again – depends on your Garmin and preferences, but these are a few ways to help you get a better “global” reading from your Garmin. But finally – take heart. You will lock into your pace soon. 🙂

    And that’s a pretty awesome selfie, I’ve gotta say. Hair swinging and everything!!!

    1. Well the last half marathon I specifically buckled down and trained for I ran 2:01 (PR) which translates to a 4:14 marathon, but that pace (9:43/mile) scares me. I don’t feel like I’m reading to shoot for that in my first marathon. But like you said, I may end up adjusting my pace and goals as training goes on. I do have plans to do one or two half marathons during training, but I was planning on aiming to hold my marathon pace, as I think I should be able to do so for a HM halfway through training. Instead, do you think I should run it the way I would “race” a half marathon to judge my fitness??

      Thank you for all of the advice about how to limit my Garmin stalking and make it easier to lock into a pace! I feel like I need to pay you, haha 🙂

    2. I think your time figuring makes sense. Honestly, you probably *could* run faster than a 4:33, but for a first marathon, “finishing” is usually a pretty good goal.

      Re: How fast to run/race your half? Up to you, really. Racing it would give you the chance to evaluate your fitness level using a McMillan style comparative chart. However, a fast run might also take a little longer to recover from, and affect the following week of your training (not too big a deal half-way through training, though).

      Running marathon pace will give you confidence that you can put in 13 miles at that pace, though, which builds a *different* kind of confidence. I sometimes ‘test’ my runners with a 15 mile MP pace run under marathon-like conditions, if possible (weather, terrain, etc), ~4-5 weeks pre-marathon. That’s usually a pretty good indicator of whether they can sustain that pace for 26 miles on race day. So you could also use the half this way.

      Honestly, up to you – if you do two, though, you could always do one of each! 🙂

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