How to determine race day goals

Fall racing season is quickly approaching! It is time to start evaluating our training and putting together goals and pacing plans for the big day. How do we begin this process? Let’s talk about the factors we analyze as coaches as we approach the big day

The first two might seem obvious, but it is important to address (we will move onto the more fun parts after!)



1- Consistency:

We want to evaluate how well you consistency put forth the effort with training.

Consistency is the first key to success! A training cycle will be most successful usually when we are able to train consistently over a prolonged period of time.

Reflection Questions: Were there many days missed? What is your background with this distance & running in general? Is this your first marathon or half marathon? Were there prolonged breaks or waves of motivation?

2- Health:

Running is a mental, physical & emotional sport. Some seasons of our life provide us with smoother training than others.

Life stress can sometimes drain us emotionally, and we find is challenging to find the will power to achieve our highest potential.  Injuries or flare ups cause us to have to take a step back. Physical illness like plagued sinus infections might also hinder our abilities. All these factors do play into how we perform.

Reflection QuestionsWere many weeks or days missed due to illness or injury? Did I have many life stressors that hindered my training cycle instead of causing me to thrive?

3- Your Racing History:

Your background in the sport is critical when evaluating goals! A first time marathoner who started running 18 months ago is going to have less aggressive goals than a 10x marathoner who is looking to snag a PR in the distance.

Another example:

2 athletes have 21:00 5k times. They have both been running for 5 years. Runner A has a 4:15 marathon PR with a not so great experience on race day from going out too hard and walk/running the last 8 miles of the race. Runner B has a 3:39 marathon PR and has negative split her last marathon.

Each of these athletes have different experiences with running a marathon. Athlete A might want to try to approach with a goal/perspective of feeling STRONG at mile 18. This might mean a less aggressive goal such as 3:50 or 3:59. Taking this race to focus on execution and building confidence is key to their success.

Athlete B might be able to try a chase after a more aggressive goal like a 3:35-3:30 since they have experienced success racing over 26.2 miles in the past at close to their fitness level.

Keeping in mind your past experiences when you are evaluating goals.

Reflection Questions: What was my last race at this distance like? Do I feel confident when I toe the line of a race? Do I feel anxiety about big goals and it cripples my performance? Does the big goal excite me? Do I perform well under pressure?


4- Races or Time Trials:

Racing during your training cycle build up is a great way to test your current fitness levels. We often recommend races 3-8 weeks out from a goal A race to evaluate current fitness levels. Racing all out in the shorter distances can help your coach evaluate your current VDOT. We can then analyze what sort of longer distance race results we can expect based on your current fitness levels.

This paints a picture of where you are fitness wise.

Take for example Athlete A

Last Marathon training cycle:

She raced a 23:00 5k PR, 1:44 half PR and ran 3:50 PR in her 1st marathon.

This Marathon training cycle:

She raced a 23:00 5k on a hilly course.. ran a 1:42 half PR.. What sort of marathon time would she expect?

I would look to the half marathon PR as an indicator of where her fitness is. A good goal for athlete A might be 3:35-3:40 given this information alone


5- Key Workouts:

Most training cycles have a series of workouts that will stress your body to cause adaptions to occur. The pace ranges we hit in workouts can be great indicators for the type of fitness level we are at. The closer we get to the race, the better these workouts work as indicators.


Take your top 6 best performance workouts you are most proud of in the last 8-10 weeks of your training cycle.

Long Run with Marathon Pace Miles or Tempos– What paces were you hitting during your marathon pace or tempo miles in long runs. How did you feel? Was there a certain threshold pace that you went beyond that exhausted you leaving you unable to complete the workouts? Did you find a sweet spot pace range that things just started to ‘click’?

Tempo Runs– What paces are you hitting for your threshold runs? How does it compare to past training cycles?

Speed Workouts- What paces are you hitting for your speed workouts? How does it compare to past training cycles?

A coach can evaluate this and help you come up with a goal range for race day based on your key workouts. If you would like to chat with a coach to develop a game plan on race day reach out to us by filling out this form or e-mail us directly


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