A question that came up in my recent survey was “How do I keep from bonking between 18-26.2 miles in the marathon?”
Great question. It highlights the crux of the marathon for both recreational and very serious marathon runners.
As you probably know, the body doesn’t have enough glycogen in the muscles and liver to finish a marathon, so the body has to utilize part of its fat stores to finish the race. This means everyone running the marathon has to figure out the best way to both get to the line fit and have a body that can utilize fat (aka lipids) in the final 10k of the race.
So this is a great question for the marathon, yet the same idea applies to shorter distances. How do I run the last mile of a 5k or 10k without slowing down? How do I run the last 5k of a half marathon without slowing down?
What makes the questions about the 5k, 10k and half marathon interesting is that 90% of runners would say they felt well in the opening kilometers/miles of the race. It wasn’t until the end that they felt like they couldn’t maintain pace, let alone speed up.
Today let’s focus on the following question. What does a well executed race look like for a variety of distances? Then next week we can discuss what the proper training looks like for these various distances.
Sound good? Great! Here we go.
Any race can be executed as an “even split” race, where the pace is the same throughout the race.
A negative split race means the second half of the race was faster than the first half. I think a negative split race should be the goal of your racing, yet this may be unrealistic in the marathon and half marathon for some athletes.
I like to see 5k runners break down the 5k into five individual kilometers. My instructions are to maintain a solid pace for the first three kilometers, grind out the fourth to maintain the pace, then speed up in the fifth. You will likely be pleased with both your finishing time and your place in the race if you execute that race plan.
The 10k is similar, but you might want to use miles. Maintain for five miles, grind out a sixth mile at the same pace (and this is going to be really tough), then have a kick – i.e. speed up – the last 200m of the race for a net negative split race.
Half marathons should be run conservatively for 10 miles, then grinding out the last part of a run, a 5k, at a pace that is faster than the first 10 miles. Again, this gives you an overall net negative split race.
I’ve coached runners who have been able to run their fastest miles of the marathon in the final 6.2 miles of the race. Unfortunately, I’ve coached more runners who have failed to execute the race plan of feeling good through 20 miles, then speeding up, as they ran just 5-10 seconds a mile faster in the first 20 miles of the race than we had agreed.
If you run too fast in the early miles of a marathon, you pay the price in the last 6.2. Perhaps this could be part of the problem for the person who wrote in?
If you want to run a good marathon, you need to be right on pace for the first 20 miles. Make it a 20 mile race, then try to run 3 miles faster, 2 miles faster then 1.2 miles faster. Even if you can’t speed up in that last 6.2 miles of the race, having that mentality will often keep you on pace and allow you to finish a race having run even splits.
So there you go, four ways to run four different races. Keep your eyes out for How Do I Keep From Dying At The End Of The Race? Part 2.