Pacing a Half Marathon

What’s Included?

  • The Warm-up
  • Miles 1-3
  • Miles 4-7
  • Miles 8-12
  • The Finish Line

The Warm-up

Even though it’s a longer race with less all-out intensity as the 5K or 10K, it’s still essential to warm-up properly for the half marathon. A proper warm-up will ensure that you don’t get injured & your legs are ready to go when the race starts!

Warm up for at least 15-20 minutes with an easy jog, some dynamic warm-ups, and a few strides or pickups. Strides and pick-ups are typically 50-100 meter accelerations – they are not all-out sprints but rather they mimic a race (starting at about 5 RPE and ending at 8-9 RPE). Incorporating some strides and pick-ups at the end of your dynamic warm-up will ensure that the race isn’t the first time your legs feel speed that day!

Just make sure your warm-up isn’t too long in duration or too far ahead of time – so it doesn’t leave you feeling tired when the race begins. 15-20 minutes is absolutely enough for a warm-up, and you should aim to start your warm up 40-45 minutes before go-time!


Miles 1-3

START SMART.

While you may feel the urge to “get ahead” of everyone at the crowded start line, hold off!

Your goal for the first few miles should be to ease in (5-6 RPE) and conserve energy. If others are passing you, let them! Run YOUR own race & remember that you still have a long way to go, so don’t spend all of your energy passing and weaving around others.

Your pace should be anywhere from 10-20 seconds slower than your actual goal pace if you have one, but don’t worry – you’ll make up for it later in the race!


Miles 4-7

GET COMFORTABLE.

Miles 4-7 are all about finding a comfortable, but hard, effort. You should now be running at your goal pace (6-7 RPE), but you shouldn’t be going “all out” at this point. There’s still a lot of race left, so it’s important to stay in control during these miles.

Another important factor during miles 4-7 is CONSISTENCY in your pacing. While it’s okay to deviate a bit here and there, maintaining a consistent pace will help you most efficiently use your glycogen stores & maintain your energy levels.

When your pace varies greatly you increase glycogen consumption & could end up running out of “gas” or hitting a wall sooner. It’s just like a car – you use more gas when you’re constantly speeding up and slowing down vs. when you’re moving at a constant and consistent speed. Find a speed that feels hard, but doable, and TRUST your legs to do the work.


Miles 8-12

GO INTERNAL.

Miles 8-12 are no doubt going to be hard. You’ve already been running for a WHILE at this point, and you still have a ways to go before you reach the final push. While miles 8-12 should be paced similarly to miles 4-7 (at your goal pace or at a 6-7 RPE), the bigger factor during this part of the race is your MINDSET.

You may feel like you can’t make it. You may feel like it’s too hard. You may find yourself wondering if you should stop or quit. DON’T. Trust yourself, believe in yourself, and don’t forget why you started. Focus on your breathing during this portion of the race to help ground yourself and get into the present moment. A few other mental strategies to use during miles 8-12:

  • Think about how you want to feel at the finish line
  • Picture yourself when you’re done with your medal around your neck, feeling so proud of yourself for pushing yourself in this moment
  • Use self-talk: actually TELL yourself you can do this out loud
  • Think about other hard things you’ve overcome
  • Imagine someone you love telling you that you can do this
  • Think about a song or a quote that totally pumps you up
  • Remember to just take it ONE step or ONE mile at a time
  • Break it up: Tell yourself that you JUST need to make it to the next half mile. And then the next. And the next.
  • Think about your surroundings to take your mind OFF the run itself

Miles 8-12 are tough, but YOU are tougher. Keep going & remember to run with your HEART when your legs and body feel too tired. Keep your form in check, keep your breathing in check, and keep your mindset in check – you’re ALMOST there.

If you’re feeling good towards the end of this section (miles 10-12) then pick up the pace just a bit. You could increase to 10-15 seconds faster than your goal pace & go from there, gradually picking up the pace to the finish line if you’ve got enough gas in the tank!


The Finish Line

You’ve GOT this! You have just one mile left, and the faster you make it happen the faster you’ll be done. YOU get to decide how long this final mile takes you & when you’ll be finished, so give it your ALL. You should be picking up the pace GRADUALLY throughout this final mile (a mile is still a long way to go after all), so don’t go out too fast right away. Instead, gradually pick up your effort from that 6-7 range up to a 8-9 range throughout the final mile with the final .1 being a 9/10 RPE. Pace-wise, you should start the final mile at your goal pace (or just below it) and finish it about 10-20 seconds faster than your goal pace.

The end is near, so give it your absolute ALL to the finish line! And don’t forget to celebrate this incredible accomplishment afterwards!


Amy Haas
Run with Aim, LLC
UESCA Certified Running Coach
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Nutrition Coach

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