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What Is Pacing And How Can It Benefit Runners?

Pacing is a skill very few amateur runners pay much attention to but is one that the pros work on a lot. Why? Because although it may not seem like it, pacing is one of the most important skills for a runner if they want to maximise potential and beat personal bests.

If you are aiming to beat your personal best, the margins can be very small. A reduction in performance by the smallest of margins can prevent you from reaching your potential.

Pacing for Medium Distances

For races such as a 5k, studies have shown that running the first mile 3% faster than goal pace is the optimal pacing strategy. If the first mile is ran at more than 6% faster however, performance will be considerably reduced and runners who exceed these limits tend to be unable to finish the race.

Having other runners around you and being in the middle of the excitement of the event, it can be hard to remain within your pace boundaries as your adrenaline gets pumping. With the margin between success and failure so thin, the consequences of starting out too fast will almost always hinder your PB targets.

Pacing For Long Distances

Pacing for a marathon actually follows the opposite theory of a 5k. Successful marathon racers target a pace about 3% slower than your goal marathon pace for the first 3-4 miles.

Marathon runners often use the term “putting time in the bank”, which refers to running the first half of a marathon slightly faster than goal pace to compensate for the inevitable slowing in the final 10km of the race. This racing strategy is actually very detrimental, both from a physiological standpoint and from empirical evidence.

The main problem with putting “time in the bank” is that carbohydrates – your primary fuel source – are burnt up quicker the faster you move. Once you burn through your carbohydrate stores, your performance will suffer from “bonking”, which is a term for your body simply running out of fuel.

Sticking to your goal marathon pace is vital if you want to avoid bonking.

The world records set for all major running events from the 1500m to the marathon, both men’s and women’s, were set running negative splits – running the first portion of the race slower than the second half.

30th October 2018, 10:24
Page updated 30th Oct 2018, 10:26
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