Time to Adjust Your Goal Pace/

The spring marathon and half marathon season is heating up! And now might be the time you’re wondering, “wait … can I actually run my goal pace?”
I get it — some days it can be tough to imagine holding that pace for 13.1 or 26.2 miles.
If you’re having doubts, there are a few things to consider when deciding if your goal pace is realistic.
1) How does your training compare?

If you’re looking to run a PR (or faster than your last training cycle), start by comparing your current training with your previous training.

  • Are you running more miles?
  • Are your speed workouts faster?
  • Are your long runs going better?

Answering yes to any of these is a great sign that you’re on track to run faster. But how much faster? For that we need …
2) Checkpoint races

Checkpoint races can help you pin down exactly how your fitness compares to previous training cycles.
But it’s not an exact science.
The more similar a checkpoint race is to the goal race, the more helpful it will be. A 5k race can be a great checkpoint for 10k fitness, but it doesn’t tell you much about what a good pace for a marathon will be.
Also remember when using online calculators or charts that “equivalent performance” doesn’t mean “predicted performance.”
Comparing a half marathon time with a marathon time on a chart like this would assume 1) you are equally skilled at running both distances (some runners are, most are better at one or the other) and 2) you are equally prepared for both distances.
This doesn’t mean you need to assume you would run slower than these charts suggest. In fact, you might be better at the marathon than the half marathon.
But it does mean you’ll need to take the information and make adjustments to it based on you as a runner to help determine whether your goal time is realistic.
3) Outside factors

If your training is going about the same and your checkpoint races don’t show you’re ready to run your goal pace, you may still have a couple tricks up your sleeve.

  • Are you expecting better weather at your goal race?
  • Is the course faster?
  • Are you eating healthier or sleeping more or are you less stressed?

Any of these external or lifestyle factors may be enough to make the difference if your goal pace is just a bit faster than what your training and checkpoint races would indicate.
So what if looking at these factors tells you that your goal pace is NOT realistic?
You could go for it anyway — everyone knows a runner who has had a bit of a miracle race. But I would recommend adjusting it. There’s no shame in that, training cycles don’t always go the way you’d like them to.
Being realistic and honest about your situation will greatly increase your chances of having a good experience at the race, regardless of your finish time.
If you do adjust your goal pace, try to do it soon enough (at least 3-4 weeks before the race) that you can practice it either in speed workouts or a long run. That way you’ll know how it should feel on race day.
And remember, if your goal pace isn’t in the cards for this race, training for fall races isn’t that far away!


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About Coach Carl
Coach Carl is a USA Track & Field Level 2 endurance coach who works with runners of all ability levels to reach their goals. He has been featured in Runner’s World, Women’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Competitor. For information on his coaching services, click here.