If you run half marathon race pace and marathon race pace during preparation for a 26.2-mile race, maintaining marathon pace should feel manageable come race day.
Half marathon pace training has a place in intelligent, proper marathon training. I like to assign half marathon race pace for certain workouts because a properly trained runner's half-marathon personal record correlates with his or her marathon PR.
Half-marathon pace is a great way to get an intense aerobic stimulus. When completing a run at this pace, your biomechanics are forced to change in a subtle way—your knees lift slightly higher at half-marathon pace, compared to marathon pace.
What Is Proper Marathon Training?
Proper marathon training should include a progression of long runs that gets you to at least one, if not more, "long-long" runs, where you go over 20 miles. This means you'll log several long runs between 14 and 20 miles before race day.
You should also be able to run solid Yasso 800-meter workouts: Run 800-meter repeats on a track in the same minutes and seconds as your marathon goal time in hours and minutes. So, if you hope to finish the marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes, you should complete the 800s in 3 minutes and 30 seconds. The recovery is simple as well: Run a 400m recovery jog in the same amount of time that you ran your 800m; so in this example, you should run a 400m recovery in 3 minutes and 30 seconds. This workout is wonderful not only for its simplicity, but also for its ability to predict marathon finish time.
In between these workouts, you should be able do some other high-level aerobic running. Examples include faster running done at 10K race pace or half-marathon race pace, or simply running marathon pace with a focus on relaxation.
Once you've got these bases covered, mix it up by training at two different paces: half-marathon pace and marathon pace.
Workout 1: Combine Half Marathon and Marathon Race Pace
The goal workout is a longish run that includes some running at half-marathon pace and some running at marathon pace. Sticking with our marathoner who hopes to run 3 hours and 30 minutes on race day, here's how to determine proper half-marathon race pace and marathon race pace for this workout:
- Use a pace calculator to determine pace per mile
- 3 hours and 30 minutes for the marathon means the athlete will run 8 minutes per mile
- 3 hours and 30 minutes for the marathon generally corresponds to a half marathon finish of 1 hour and 40 minutes (if you're completing proper marathon training; see above)
- 1 hour and 40 minutes for the half marathon is about 7:37 per mile, which is just under 1:55 for 400 meters on the track