Race Strategy: All Out or Moderation

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Double 13 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #2405


    As my race nears (May 1st) I am debating race strategy. Do I run a ‘sure-thing-pb’ or race ‘close-to-the-edge’.

    I’ve been running faster than my current PB in comfort on long runs. Over the past few weeks I did 24 in 3:11 and 24 in 3:10; both felt easy.

    I finished both at close to tempo pace and could easily have run another 2.2 (and new PB’s). This was in training with little to no water and no taper. In a race I am certain I could go under 3:25 with ease (current PB is 3:29 last year at this race).

    Or I could push for a ‘breakthrough’ with a sub 3:15. But if I run close to the edge I could crash; missing the sure-thing in the process.

    Its like investing in stocks or bonds (but instead of money my investment is time spent training).

    If I buy Bonds (race a sure thing) I am certain of my return (5 min pb) and my investment is safe. If I buy stocks (race all out) I may get a larger return (15 min pb) but I could loose it all (a dnf).

    How many race all out versus staying inside their comfort zone? This question only applies to the marathon. I think we all race ‘all-out’ in shorter races but the marathon is unique because you can’t bounce back and run another two or three weeks later.


  • #18307



    I tend to run marathons on the conservative side. That’s probably part of the reason the calculators don’t “work” for me. When I ran my PR I ran conservative for 18 miles then I picked up the pace. I slowed a little over the last 3 miles, however still ran a negative split by a little over 1:00.

    Looking back now, and planning for my next marathon, I wonder if I could have run a faster time by going harder from the start and not picking it up between 18 and 23. Of course, there’s no way to tell.

    I was reading somewhere (maybe it was Pfitz) that stated running a slightly positive split was the way to go. Of course you still have to narrow your goal before you can decide how to get there.

    I think you could still got out at 3:18 pace and adjust at the half. If you feel haggered, hang on for 3:20 or 3:25. If you feel comfortable, squeeze the gas and go for 3:15. 1:39/1:36 is not inconceivable.

  • #18308



    The splits you suggest “1:39/1:36” (a 3 min negative split) is the same difference I ran last year.

    My splits were 1:46/1:43. I was running near tempo pace the last several miles. Felt fairly comfortable right to the finish so I know it was too conservative. But last year my goal was clearer: Run a BQ. So I ran my planned race.

    Well, not exactly by plan. The slow 1st half was partially becaus I started at the right spot (according to pace signs) only to find thousands of slower runners in front of me when the gun went off (they combined the 1/2 and full starts so 5000 half runners began with the 600 full).

    In fact at the 10k I was off my planned pace by 5 minutes but made most of it back by the half.

    I think following your advice about negative splits makes sense. Its how I train. All my long runs start fairly slow (30-45 secs off mp) but end fast (15-30 secs faster than mp). And if things don’t go well I can maintain the earlier pace still get a pb.


  • #18309


    Well, just like investing, it’s all about what you want and how much risk you are willing to assume. Only you can decide what you want out of this race, which means only you can decide what kind of pace you want to start at.

    If you run your 3:25 and finish relatively comfortably, what are you going to be thinking to yourself? Are you going to feel good about the PR and be looking forward to an even bigger PR or are you going to feel let down because you could have gone even faster? If you shoot for 3:15, consider either possibility. Sure, it will feel great if you get 3:15. What about a worst case scenario? What happens if you hit the wall and DNF or end up nearly crawling across the finish line in 3:30+? Are you going to say you took your shot, no regrets for reaching for the brass ring and move on or are you going to be beating yourself up for blowing the PR opportunity? Does the reward of grasping the brass ring outweigh the potential risk?

    Of course, a couple of other options would be to hedge your bets and go out at 3:20 pace or to not worry about pace, run according to how you feel, and let time take care of itself.

  • #18310

    Randy, any other races you can use as an indicator? I punched a recent 20k in the calculator to help with my race planning.

    I have an end goal and will run my first 10 miles consistent with that goal. I will adjust if necessary in miles 10-20 and let it all hang out the last 10k.

    Hope this helps.

  • #18311


    I have no recent race results. My race goals are based on how I am running in training.

    In the last 20 long runs (16-24) leading to this same race last year I averaged 8:20/mile. This year in those same 20 long runs I averaged 7:55/mile.

    Based on last years race pace (7:59) I raced 21 secs faster than my long run average. The same 21 drop this year would be 7:34 (3:19).

    I figure 3:19 to 3:24 based on training pace but finished last years race so strong that I am debating running closer to my limits (a possible 3:15).

    After tonights 13 I feel like I’ll be lucky to finish sub 3:30. I struggled with a 7:45 average pace. I hope its only the 24 and 12 over the weekend (both under 8:00) and yesterdays tempo leaving me less than fully recovered.

    Last Wed I did this same 13 at 7:29 pace. A week before that I ran 16 at 7:28 pace. Those felt easy, tonight I struggled at 15/sec/mile slower.

    I seem to run way better when I start slow and finish fast. Maybe that was my problem tonight. I wanted to run even splits.

    btw: Ryan, I am considering running the race without the watch. I do all my long runs wearing a watch but have it set to only display distance (its gps). I dont find out my total run time or splits until I get home. This works so well in training that I probably will do the same in the race.


  • #18312



    I don’t know if I’ve ever “met” anyone that keeps/recites as much info about their runs as you. At first I was going to say “over-analyzes” but then I thought “I don’t know if he analyzes at all.”

    After tonights 13 I feel like I’ll be lucky to finish sub 3:30. I struggled with a 7:45 average pace. I hope its only the 24 and 12 over the weekend (both under 8:00) and yesterdays tempo leaving me less than fully recovered.

    Last Wed I did this same 13 at 7:29 pace. A week before that I ran 16 at 7:28 pace. Those felt easy, tonight I struggled at 15/sec/mile slower.

    So you ran 36 miles at sub-8 pace over the weekend, had an “easy” day, then a tempo run and you wonder why you had a hard time with 13 miles at MP (or close).

    Just looking at those last 5 days, it seems like you are running hard A LOT. Where are your easy days? I bet you don’t let the pace go above 8:00 on those.

  • #18313


    Zeke, it’s interesting you bring up the pace thing. About 10-15 minutes before you posted that, I was instant messaging someone about today’s events in the forum and my first comment was “why is Randy doing his long runs less than 30 seconds per mile slower than his eventual marathon pace?” Everything seems quite fast. As you stated, where are the easy days? Where is the rest?

  • #18314


    You guys are right! Last nights run was a mistake. In general I do take easy days. The average week has:

    3 easy days; 6 on Mon and Fri, 13 on Wed

    2 medium days; 12 at mp on Sun, 16-24 long on Sat

    2 hard days; 7 on Tue and Thu (tempo, hills or intervals)

    On the 3 easy days I usually run 8:00-8:15 pace, which considering the distances are easy runs.

    The last couple of 13’s were ‘uncharacteristic’. The way the last 2 24’s and the last 16 and 13 felt got me thinking about a faster goal. Last night I stupidly tried to test myself one to many times!

    Last night I figured if I can’t run 13 at planned mp with ease (on any random day) than I cant expect to run 24 at that pace in 2 weeks?

    I learned a lessen (and lost some confidence in the process!). I will switch tonights tempo workout to an easy run, go easy on Fri, run comfortably for 16 on Saturday then do 12 at mp on Sunday.

    Regarding the abundant statisitics I collect: In reality I probably run more by feel than many runners. I have this info because I wear a gps watch. But on most runs I set it to display only distance. I display time or pace only when it matters; like doing intervals or a tempo run.

    I simply press ‘start’ when the run begins, check distance during the run so I know when to turn for home, and press ‘stop’ when I get back.

    In between I run based on feel, not knowing my real time or pace (unless I want that information). When I get home I plug it into the charger and it downloads my splits, pace, distance, elevation and even a map of my route to the log book.

    Its only after the run that I see how fast I was running at different splits or see averages across weeks or months. This is one of the reasons I am thinking of running the race the same way. Its how I trained.


  • #18315


    I am completely in favor of running by feel, but I think that early in a marathon, running by feel must be tempered quite a lot because you should be feeling great. Your legs should feel fresh and you should be ready to conquer the world when you step up to the staring line. When you feel that great, it is easy to go out and set a half-marathon PR and then bonk a few miles later.

    Not that I have any experience with that mind you. My friend did that. Yeah, it was my friend. He did it twice. Perhaps the third time will be the charm. His training should be better this fall and he shouldn’t be moving into a new house in the country or working long hours on a huge project at work during his next training cycle. He is also older and wiser. Things should go much better this fall.


  • #18316


    Put the hammer down! Uncut the bomb. Put us out of our misery and go race it.

    Report back.

    Repeat .

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