General Running

Half Marathon Race Goal?

posted about 9 years ago | Report

Hi all! I'm running my first half marathon in 2 weeks on Oct. 31 and I need some advice on setting my goal time and how I should pace myself.

A little about me. I ran somewhat regularly during high school and college, but hadn't really run or exercised regularly or consistently for several years. Starting in April, I started running 5-6 days a week and slowly built my mileage up until I decided to train for a Half. Based on a couple 5K race finishes and a couple online conversion tools (i.e. I figured 2 hours was a fairly realistic and attainable goal time when I started by training program about 14 weeks ago.

There are a couple problems though: (1) Every time I try to do a realistic simulation of race day by having a significant portion of a weekly long run be at my goal pace (around 9:10/mile), I am unable to maintain the pace for more than 4-5 miles; (2) I had a few weeks in the middle of my training that were truly subpar (i.e. cutting out 2 or 3 workouts for those weeks). I never missed a long run (I had a good 12 miler last Sunday ) and always had at least a tempo workout as one of my other workouts each week, but I'm still worried that because of my lack of discipline, my goal may be unattainable.

The Half I'm running has pacing teams and they have teams for 2:00 (approx. 9:10/mile) and 2:11 (10:00/mile). I still really want to shoot for the 2:00, but I'm worried that it's too fast for me and if I try to stay with the 2:00 pacing team I'll just be pushing too hard and setting myself up for a really painful end of the race. BUT, I know the 2:11 pacing team will be way too slow for me to feel good about the race. My last 4 long runs (in reverse chron. order) have been 12.1 miles (9:55/mile pace), 9 miles (9:39), 11 miles (10:13), and 10 miles (9:28), so I know I can run at least 9:30/mile over the entire Half Marathon, plus if I decide to play it safe and go with the slower pacing team (or pace myself somewhere between the teams), it will be nearly impossible for me to catch up to the 2:00 team if I feel really good.

Now (finally) comes the question. Should I push myself and risk attempting a pace that is too fast for me, or should I forgo my goal from the start and run at a pace I know I can sustain and finish strong?

To anyone who has made it this far, thanks for sticking with the question, and I appreciate any advice you may have.


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  • Hey Mike,

    you run 5 to 6 times a week and you worry about a 2h half-marathon? I ran my first half 8 years ago in a time of 2:00:04 (I know it like it was yesterday;-)) and I trained running 4 times a week. You should definitely go with the 2h pace team...


    posted about 9 years ago

  • Benedikt, I ran 5-6 times a week back in April and May when I was out of work. Now work and family obligations cut my training down to 4-5 times a week, and during my slacker weeks I had several weeks with only 3 workouts and one week with only 2.

    I've never run a race longer than 5K before (and before a few weeks ago I'd never run a distance in the double digits before), so I don't really know what to expect.

    posted about 9 years ago | edited about 9 years ago

  • I had one goal for my only half and that was to complete it without stopping or walking. I met this goal. My time was poor(2:19 maybe?), but oh well.

    posted about 9 years ago

  • Spencer, that's not a poor time at all, that works out to about 10:35/mile. For a 13 mile race to be able to keep a pace of 10:35 is really good. Remember, most people (like 90%) wouldn't even lace up their shoes for a 6 mile run, and a good portion of those that do couldn't have that good a pace over 6 miles, let alone for another 7.1 miles.

    My main goal, and the only one I really want to meet, is hte same as yours... to finish the sucker without walking. Based on my recent long runs, I should be able to do that and my personal belief is that you should have goals that are attainable but difficult. If they're too easy of a goal, then how good does it really feel to meet them? I'm not saying "finishing without walking" is an easy goal, but I've trained enough that I should definitely be able to meet it, so I'm trying to push myself a little more.

    posted about 9 years ago

  • I didn't train well on my long runs- the longest being a 10 miler. I hit the wall at mile 11- brain and calves seemed to stop working. I REALLY wanted to stop and walk, but pushed thru.
    I may run the Mardi Gras 1/2 in February. If so, I will make adjustments to my long runs :)

    posted about 9 years ago

  • Mike - Great question as I have yet to answer it for myself. From what I know of you through your training, I think you would kick yourself if you didn't try for the faster pace. You've put in the awesome speed workouts each week and now it is time to let your training do it's thing. With the pace team, I'm guessing you'll feel that it is really slow at first since you'll probably want to go out faster. If you stick with them and fight the urge, then I think you'll find a nice rhythm and the race day adrenaline will help to carry you through. You can always slow down. Plus, you have conditioned yourself and this is a race, so put it out there :-) I'll be behind you if you fall back and you can join me!

    posted about 9 years ago

  • Hi Mike,
    It is very difficult to simulate race performance, if not near impossible, I've tried it and failed miserably. Too many factors involved on race day. Some ideas you may wish to consider is spending the the last few days becoming familiar with the course your running by getting an idea as to what grades you will be dealing with for example. Have a strategy for the race not just a goal, I ran mine as a negative split for example or at least near to one as I could. For me that took some discipline as I had to start out at a slower pace and kept it up for half the distance even though I felt I could run faster. However, because of this I had the energy for the second half to keep me running almost maxed out. I was passing folks who had past me at the beginning but were running out of steam! Plan your fueling requirements, this is very important and some folks neglect to do this. Either carry your own knowing what works for you or rely on the stations. Hopefully you experimented with fueling your body during your training runs and are aware of what works for you. The main thing now is that your training is behind you, don't get caught up with the feeling that you didn't do enough, or try to make up for what you perceive as not enough speed/distance, that can be devestating. Time to taper now, judging by your training to date I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised. I look forward to reading your result. Good luck, enjoy every minute of the race!

    posted about 9 years ago

  • Mike I think your goal should first be to finish. I don't think that will be a problem. You put in the training the only way you will find out is if you go for it. Like Rob says there are some many things that can happen on race day its to hard to plan. So I say just go out and run. I would go for the 2:00 pace and stay with them, you may surprise yourself and stay ahead of them or right with them and kick past at the end. Don't get freaked out about your time, enjoy the race and the journey that got you there. Its going to go really fast. After you finish you will have a better gauge for your next one.

    posted about 9 years ago

  • Mike I'm running the same race :-) Maybe see you out there.

    posted about 9 years ago

  • Usually when I go back and look at my training times after a race I find that I can run a race approximately 30-45 sec/mile faster than my training times. So look at your times and use this as a guide. In the end only you really can decide as you are the only person who really knows.


    posted about 9 years ago

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