Running
September 24, 2019

How To Pace Your Race

Eliud Kipchoge running in the London marathon

This post was originally written for The Straits Times as part of a 16-week column preparing runners for The Straits Times Run 2019.

—–

It’s likely you’ll never run as fast as Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world record holder. You probably won’t even run as fast as our local marathon champion, Soh Rui Yong.

That’s OK, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t run like them.

In my previous article, I spoke about the importance of developing your race execution skills. Race execution refers to the things within your control that improve (or ruin) your race time directly.

I shared that pacing, fuelling, running form and mindset were the primary things you should focus on during a race to maximise your fitness and achieve your best result.

While all important, pacing is arguably the most important because it affects how much fuel you need, how quickly your form breaks down and your mindset, so I wanted to unpack pacing in a little more detail.

Sign up for Coached running or triathlon programmes.

What’s Your Pacing Strategy?

Whether you know it or not, you’re using one of three pacing strategies every time you race.

A positive split is where you run the first half faster than the second half. An even split is where you run at a consistent pace for the duration of the race, and a negative split is where you run the second half faster than the first half.

Most amateur runners run a positive split. That’s because they run too hard in the beginning, blow up and jog to the finish line. On the flip side, most professional runners will run an even split or a subtle negative split, where their second half is marginally faster than the first half of the race.

The latter is the best way to maximise your fitness and run the best possible time, which is why the pros use it, but it takes a lot of patience and control to pull off.

Like any skill, the skill of racing needs to be practised and perfected over time. I work hard to teach athletes who sign up for a Coached training programme about the importance of race execution and have them practise it in each race they enter.

Eliud Kipchoge v Riana Montisano (a.k.a Normal Person)

I started coaching Riana, a marathon runner who wanted to break her personal best (PB), a little under two years ago. She worked hard to improve her fitness and practised her racing skill diligently in each of her races.

Riana Montisano and Eliud Kipchoge

Earlier this year, she travelled to London for her primary race of the year, the London Marathon. She had the fitness to run a great time, but could she get her execution right and achieve her PB?

While significantly slower than race winner Kipchoge, you can see in the chart below that she ran with a similar level of self-control as the master and achieved her PB by a whopping eight minutes.

Pace Yourself Like A Pro

Pace comparison table

While you’ll never run as fast as the pros, there’s no reason you shouldn’t race like them. Run an even split in your next race, and you’ll be rewarded with the best possible time given your starting fitness and the length of time you had to prepare.

Coached RunningBen PulhamBen Pulham is a former professional triathlete and the founder of Coached, a heart rate training programme that helps you optimise, track and enjoy your training.