Pace wisely in a long distance races

Pacing is crucial for running long distance races especially racing a half marathon and longer. You must fight the temptation to get caught up in the crowd and get out too fast. Everyone has been there thinking, “I should slow down… but I feel good!”. If you have had a good training cycle you should feel good the first half of a race. Like it is a breeze. Like you could run faster. And you most likely could for a few miles… But for how long?

In a marathon the dreaded ‘wall’ is said to be 20 miles. It has been said that the marathon is two races: a 20 mile race and a 10k race. If you can conserve your energy for the first 20 miles and feel good it can help you really race the last 10k well. If you go out to fast the last 10k can be more of a death march. A point where your legs are not responding and hope that it still looks like you are running or at least shuffling to the finish.


Coach Ben Jacobs- 1:08 Half PR

At my best, I ran a smart race starting off around 5:20 pace per mile. I had run one half marathon before as a workout but this was my first race. I ran with only a timex watch and split my own miles. It was a huge field with many talented runners. About half a mile in I was off the pack and on my own. Since I had never run a half I talked myself into running slower and just letting the other pack of runners go ahead of me. It was hard. To be in a race 1 mile and already say “well I am not racing with those people today”. But I told myself this race is for me. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.

I ran the first five miles averaging low 5:20 pace. I could see people falling off that pack ahead of me, but still I remained within myself. I began to increase the pace slightly as I could see one of my teammates ahead in a small pack. For the next 5 miles or so I ran just under 5:20 pace per mile. I was slowly gaining on that pack but was still a little ways off.

At the 10 mile mark, I was feeling good and increased the pace slightly again. I believed that I could finish stronger than I had ran the first 10 miles. I was able to run my last two miles in near 5:05 pace per mile. It felt great to finish stronger. That is still my half marathon PR.

Like all runners, I have also done races in the opposite way. Hoping for a PR, I have allowed myself to run someone else’s race. I have known that my training was good and went out and ran with the pack hitting the first mile in 5:05. Then maintaining 5:10 pace for the middle miles and running much slower at the end. It is much better to negative split a race and to run your own race without getting caught up in the crowd

Advice for Pacing

I would advise to start out 10-15 second slower than your A goal pace for the marathon. Break it into parts and focus on how your feel. It is far better to feel strong the last few miles and think “man I started to slow” than to crawl the last few miles saying “why did I get so carried away”.

A half marathon or marathon are never easy. If you are a new runner running to finish strong and feeling good is a great goal. If you are trying to improve your time keep in mind it is never easy to run far distances. A lot will depend on the day. But if you have been training smart and run a smart paced race you will have more fun and have a chance to run that PR!!

Pacing Plan Examples:

Half Marathon
Miles 1-4 Marathon goal pace or 10-15 seconds slower than half marathon goal pace
Miles 5-10 Half marathon pace
Miles 11-13.1 See what you have left. Increase pace slowly and smart.


Miles 1-5 . Slightly slower than goal pace. 10-15 seconds
Miles 6-10 . Inch pace slightly. 5-10 seconds slower that goal pace
Miles 10-20 Goal pace
Miles 20-23 Maintain pace. Remain calm.
Miles 24-26.1 See what you have. Increase pace slow and smart.
Mile 26.2 . FINISH

Obviously terrain and temperature will play into this.

How to Safely Build Your Mileage

In order to be a better runner The most important thing you must do is RUN!

There are many philosophies out there about how much, how far and how fast you should run in order to improve. Everyone is so different and has different ability levels. Some people will respond better to mileage build while some will respond better to incorporating speed workouts.

Many times people want to get right into training and jump their mileage up thinking that is the way to improve. This can lead to setbacks that can compromise your training in the long run. If you are unable to run for several weeks you will be further behind where you could have been given smart progression.

Progression is key

One variable at a time-  Your body will need time to adapt and you must allow it to recover. When changing a variable in your training it is important to only change one variable at a time. Do not increase mileage, run faster on easy runs and run harder workouts. These are all variables that should be considered independently in order to improve.

The ‘10% rule’ Many times people discuss the 10% rule. People get the idea that it is okay to increase the mileage by up to 10% each week. This is not the intend of that method. The intend is to say do not increase by more than 10%. Any actual increase in mileage should be within the plan and have a point. All training should allow for a cut back week or ‘down week’ every 3-5 weeks to allow the body to recover from the increases.

Consistency is key-  If you have been consistent at 15 miles per week and have been having good workouts it would be a good idea to add a few miles per week. Then you will be taking your training to a new level and your body will have to adapt to that level of training before you can take the next step. Like climbing the stairs. You could skip a step or two. But if may be unwise. And if you skip more than that you are setting yourself up to crash and burn.

If you are a new runner consistency should be your main goal. Start running a few days a week for a few miles a day. After you have mastered that you can add a mile. Keep building slowly.

Don’t Rush the Process Many times runners sign up for a marathon and read that they should be running 20 mile long runs. Your long run should be no more than 30% of your weekly mileage. It takes time to build your mileage to that level. If you do too much too fast it could set you back physically and mentally if you are unable to finish.

Finding a sweet spot If you are an experienced runner you should evaluate your training over the course of several years. Look carefully at when you ran successfully. If you had injuries were you running more mileage at that time? Evaluating several years of training can help you to identify the amount of mileage that you are successful running.

Everyone has their sweet spot for mileage. If you run less you will not maximize your training ability and if you run more you are likely to set yourself up for injury or under performance. It is important to find what works for each individual in order to find optimal training. Many very successful runners need to run lower mileage to stay healthy. When training your ultimate goals should be to stay healthy and make it to the finish line fit and ready to perform your best!

How is your cadence effecting your running efficiency?

Have you heard about Cadence? Cadence has become big talk in the running community with the new technology that has come out in recent years. Many Garmin watches can give you a cadence calculation.

What is Cadence?

Cadence is the amount of steps that you take in a a min. Cadence is typically measured in steps per minute. Cadence and stride length determine how fast a runner is traveling. Stride length is more dependent on your height and body structure. Jack Daniels (famous running coach) made famous the theory that elite runners take 180 steps or more per minute. What often gets forgot is that he said “or more” meaning that there is variability among every person for what the perfect cadence number is.

Why is Cadence Important?

Cadence can give you a general idea of how efficient you are as a runner. If you are closer to 180 it is more likely that you are running optimally whereas if you are closer to 130 it could indicate that you are wasting some energy and could be slowing yourself down.

Low cadence numbers could indicate that you are over striding. Over striding is inefficient. It happens when your leg is landing too far out in front of your body (center of mass) and primarily on your heel. If your foot is way out in front of you you have no choice but to land on your heel. 

If your leg is straight and extended out in front of you when you land it will cause your knee to lock. Think if you were to stand and jump forward as far as you can. Would it be more comfortable to land with your legs straight on the ground or to bend your knees slightly to cushion the blow? This is the same principle with running. If your leg is too far out you can not safely cushion your landing.

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How you can change your Cadence:

Your body learns things through repetition. If you have been running a certain way for years it will not automatically change after a few weeks. You have to train patterns. It takes a constant and thoughtful process to modify the way you run and when your body gets tired form breaks down and runners revert to learned patterns.

If you feel that your cadence is low or needs improving there are several steps that you can perform:

1) General speed work and strides. Doing strides (short quick bursts of running) one to two times a week can help improve your cadence. These will train your body to run faster and more efficiently. When you run faster your body has to pick up the cadence.

2) Bounding: Bounding is a drill that can help improve lower leg strength and stability. It also helps to mimic the running form. You want to drive off of your right leg forward and bring your left knee up to a 90 degree angle. Try to hang in the air for close to 1 second. Then land on the ball of your left foot with your knee bent to cushion the landing. Push off your left foot and repeat. Make sure to bring the knee to 90 degrees each time.

3) Mirror Running: You can also work on cadence visually by running in place in front of a mirror for a minute. Count each step on one leg. Try to land with knee bent. Since you are not moving you won’t be over striding and can focus on landing softly.

4) Mirror Plyometrics: In front of a mirror you can do double and single leg line jumps. Work on landing softly with knee slightly bent to cushion the blow . It should not be jarring your whole body. Very soft. This is for learning landing technique not building power.

5) Ladder or fast feet drills: Not only for sprinter these can help you to get mentally and physically training to get your foot back to the ground quicker. As a runner you want less hang time and more ground time. If you don’t have a ladder you can just to short quick feet strides or over and back line drills to get the motion down.

Monitoring Cadence in the future for success:

After doing some of these drills you can try to monitor your cadence on an easy run. If you have a metronome that can be set to 90 beats per minute you can do a portion of your run trying to make ground contact on each beep. If not just pick 1 minute segments and count your right leg every stride. See how close you are to 90 steps. Run a few more minutes and repeat. Make sure not to do it for an entire run to avoid overuse.

As with so many things Cadence could be a useful data in running. Make sure not to get carried away with worrying about your cadence. Don’t stress over being at a perfect 180. Everyone is different and different factors will contribute to cadence and running economy. As with anything make sure that you ease into trying something new. Changing your stride even a little will work different muscle fibers and can cause stress to the body. Don’t try to change al at once. Gradual progression is the best way to avoid injury. If you are a person that has had lower leg injuries you should consult with your physical therapist or specialist to determine if cadence monitoring is right for you.

Core Work For Runners

Your core is one of the most important things you can strengthen as a runner. It helps with stability, posture and balance.

Your core is what keeps you upright when you are running. Towards the end of a run, when you are extremely fatigued, your form begins to suffer.

Poor form not only slows you down, it also opens you up to potential injuries.

And we don’t want that to happen

Do core work 3-5 times per week to develop a strong core. We will share with you some of our most effective core work in this video


Effort Based Running- Don’t let your watch rule your run

Have you ever had a run that felt great, but you looked down mid-run to see your pace/heart rate then your perspective completely changed for the worse?

It was not too long ago pace tracking devices did not exist. When I first started running as a broke college student, all I could afford as a 10 dollar timex stop watch. The only way to know how far or how fast I ran was to mapping out a route and divide the time by distance. No mile splits. No heart rate. Just overall pace.

Believe it or not, there are many athletes who still train using a simple stop watch which seems crazy when all sorts of gadgets that measure pace, heart rate, cadence, vertical oscillation are at our finger tips.

Why would someone not want to take advantage of that data?

When we tune into our paces and/or heart rate, we are tuning OUT how we feel. This is very bad for the sport of running. Running requires your mind and body to be in sync with each other. Your body is constantly sending you signals. Listen to it instead of listening to your watch.

Coach Ben Jacobs (1:08 half marathoner) rarely uses his garmin. He prefers to run using a stop watch. Coach Jason Phillippi (2:46 marathoner) did not start wearing a garmin until he was running his 3rd marathon!

“Just like to go off feel. It is important to learn your body so that you can regulate your runs within yourself. I wear Garmin on longer days and workout days so that I can be sure of the pace and can learn to feel that pace” – Coach Ben Jacobs 1:08 Half Marathoner without a garmin

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Ben with Timex watch & teammate Chase without a watch

” Before I had a garmin, it was cool because it made you do math in your head and didn’t feel the vibration each Mile, so you could get lost in the race and not have to pay attention to your splits.” – Coach Jason Phillippi 2:46 marathoner without a Garmin

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Jason After his 2:46 Marathon with only a stop watch

Tips for Running off Effort while using a tracking device:

  • Turn off auto-lap. Don’t get the pace alerts at every mile. Get out of the habit of looking down at your pace.
  • Flip the watch to the inside of your wrist. Don’t look at it. Cover it.
  • Run with friends! Talking to someone will help distract you from looking down at your watch. A true conversational pace will help you get lost in conversation and forget the pacing
  • Know what Effort different runs should be! Easy runs: 4-5 on a 10 scale. Tempo Runs: 7-8 on a 10 scale. Speed Work: 8-9 on a 10 scale. Race: 9-10 on a 10 scale

Tips for going off effort without a pace tracking device

  • Run a Route you know! This will be very uncomfortable to run without a pace tracker the first time. Running a route you know by heart will help you feel more normal. You have ran it several times, and you know the route! The only thing different will be not knowing the pace 🙂
  • Start with an easy short run. Next time you have an easy 3-5 miler on the schedule go watchless. It is better to start with shorter runs and ease into long runs without it
  • Focus on form and breathing. If you start to get worried about your pace/effort, focus on how you are feeling and breathing. This will help you get back into tune with your body. It might feel weird at first, but it will make you stronger.

Going off of effort is a great way to run because you are teaching your mind and body to work together independent of any outside gadgets. You will realize how strong you are. You don’t need anything or anyone else to pace you when you are in tune with your body! Be patient it takes time 🙂

Be in the moment. Enjoy the run. Don’t let a watch get in the way.