Even when you know better, the mind has a way of tricking you into thinking a faster pace is possible. Running the first and second half of the race at the same pace—known as even splitting—will put you on track to run your goal time without falling apart the last few miles.
"Ultimately, finding and locking in the pace that is 'just right' from start to finish is the best approach," Forsman says.
To nail down that particular pace, look at everything from past race performances to times you've run in workouts. By running a couple of shorter races leading up to the marathon, you can plug your finishing times into a variety of online predictor calculators to get an idea of what is realistic for the marathon.
In general, the longer the lead-up race, the more accurate the marathon pace prediction will be. For instance, a half-marathon completed two months before the marathon will give you a better indication of what you should be shooting for than a 5K will.
"As we get closer to race day, I usually set up a few key long runs that are designed to be dress rehearsals," Forsman says. "This typically means a reasonable number of the miles logged during these runs at the desired pace."
Most runners who consider past races and workouts, can determine a useful pacing strategy to hit their goal times and finish strong.
Well-known coaches employ a number of strategies to help athletes internalize pace. For instance, in Hansons Marathon Method, the coaches of the Michigan-based Hansons-Brooks Distance Project prescribe weekly tempo runs that are run at marathon pace. Starting with tempo runs of 5 miles and progressing to 10 miles by the end of training, these workouts are designed to assist in pinpointing and internalizing race pace.
For instance, if you're half-way through training and can't execute an 8-mile tempo run at the pace you predicted from a shorter race, it may be time to step back and reassess whether you've chosen a pace that is too fast. While these runs are supposed to feel somewhat difficult, especially when combined with other weekly training sessions, you should finish feeling strong and in control. Once you've nailed down a pace that feels realistic, these runs assist in making that particular speed feel second-nature. Over weeks of executing these tempo runs at the proper pace, you'll hardly need to look at your watch.