It’s Week 3 of marathon training, and I’m struggling with a technical question regarding pace runs. My question is: just how necessary is it, really, to think about your pace? Can’t I just “pace myself” during the marathon like I normally do?
Let me back up a little bit and present my case here. I haven’t talked much about the training program I’m using. After looking around at a few possibilities, I decided to base my training off of Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program. Then I went ahead and plugged in strength & cross-training days, since I think those workouts are extremely important. I made my own little schedule that looks like this:
Here’s what I like about it:
- I’m running 4 days/week.
- My long runs started at 8 miles, which is a challenging-enough distance for me that I didn’t feel like I was wasting time.
- There are no specific hill workouts, speed intervals, mile repeats, etc. I’ve tried a training plan with these before and hated it. I like to just put my tennies on and run.
- I can keep the schedule flexible–for example, move my weekday runs around to fit my Kosama schedule, and move my long runs around to fit my race schedule (incorporating the STL Relay in April!).
Here’s what I don’t like about it:
- The pace runs.
I find that when I set my Garmin to “Virtual Pacer” and am constantly staring at my wrist, adjusting my speed faster or slower according to the numbers, I just never get in my groove. This morning’s five-miler felt painful for the first three miles, while I was conscious about my pace. It felt torturous to run at exactly 9:15 min/miles. Those miles ended up being 9:09, 9:07, and 9:05. During mile four, I got into my music and forgot about my pace… and ran an 8:43.
I understand the reason for pace runs. It’s important to keep up a pace that you can maintain for 26 miles in a marathon. But as a pretty experience half-marathon runner, I feel like I can pace myself pretty easily. I know I’m not going to run the 8:30 min/mile pace that I PR’d with in a half-marathon. But, honestly, I don’t know what pace I’m going to run on marathon day. It might be a 10 min/mile, or it might be an 8:45. I have no idea. And I’m okay with that. My goal here is to finish, not to win. And no matter my time, it will be a PR just to cross the finish line.
So, experienced marathoners: what do you think? Are pace runs really necessary, or can I just go for it?