Pace advice/strategy for half- Updated with race report (Read 109 times)


    37/F here. I'm notoriously horrible and pacing half marathons, so please help. I'm running a half marathon next Sunday. Mo Cowbell in STL, mostly flat with a little hill at the end. I train in a very hilly area. Forecast presently looks like low-to-mid 60's for air temp and DP (pretty decent but not ideal). I won't taper, but I'll rearrange my week to keep speed work/12 miler at the beginning of the week, and my last two runs this week will be recovery runs.


    I've been training for a full (Nov. 11) using Pfitz 18/55, modifying some of the speed work (no strides) to prevent injury since I'm new to this volume of running. (I also took a two week hiatus from the plan in August after needing to switch races and trying to line up my taper to accommodate the new race). On Sept 15 I raced a (very warm and hilly) 21:30 5k in the middle of a 14 mile run. Two weeks ago I did an 11 miler with 7 at tempo pace (7:45) and finished pretty strong. I've averaged 44 mpw over the past 13 weeks. I think my training log is viewable.


    History- I raced a very hot 1:47 half marathon in May on 25 mpw/all easy miles. In May I also did a very hot 10k in 46:40. Last Nov, I raced a 10 miler in 1:17 on 30 mpw.


    My goal marathon is Nov 11. To BQ I need a 3:35. Historically, my marathon times have been exactly 2xHM + 10 minutes, although I've improved my endurance during this training cycle so I'm hoping to take some time off that 10 minutes, but not counting on it. This means I need to run a 1:42 half marathon next Sunday to be in the ballpark. Is this a suicide pace (7:47)? Also, I'd like to start my first couple of miles around an 8 minute mile to keep myself honest, is this a bad idea? There are no 1:45 pacers, only 1:40, and I think if I tried to keep up with them I'd likely self destruct midway through.


    All brutally honest analysis and suggestions are welcomed.


      I'm not good at fine details of training plans, but I'll take a shot.  Looks like you've got some good things going for you; training on a lot of hills, and sticking to Pfitz.  You can do your own brutally honest assessment, based on how the half goes.  If conditions are really good, you could take a shot at 1:40.  Yes, take a mile or two easy, and see how you feel.  If it's not a 1:40 day, you may be able to tell by then, and temper your expectations a bit.  How hard you run the half probably isn't going to affect your marathon, but it will give you a data point.  Good luck!

      Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.
      - Mark Twain

      Seattle prattle

        I think this is very doable.

        What you have going in your favor is that the spring half was under difficult conditions on a lot less mileage but still not that far off your goal pace. How much better can you do with all the conditioning you've gained?

        And speaking of conditioning, the recent long runs of 20 miles and 17 1/2 miles should prepare you well! I think it is particularly important when you consider that 44 mpw is not a heck of a lot, but the week before being in the low 50's is pretty solid but that's the only one in that range..

        Hanging with the 1:40 group would be tough but not out of the question. If you do, you'd have to forget the slower pace for the first couple of miles strategy.

        But more importantly, how are you viewing this race? If it's a tune-up race, you may want to be a bit more conservative with some consideration for how you are recovering. If you recover quickly and are feeling like you are handling the Pfitz plan well, you could try to race it. If, on the other hand, you are struggling, a hard HM effort will steal time during the ensuing days that you need to recover and get back to training. Remember, if a normal taper is about 3 weeks, you only have 5 weeks left after the HM, 3 of which will be eaten up by the taper. And you might want to increasing weekly mileage during this period, which would be hard to do if recovering from a hard HM.

        Lastly, if the HM is just to get you ready for the full, you could do what our club always does for tune-up HMs and that is to run the first 10 miles at something approximating (but not faster than) marathon pace and then run the last 5K based on how you feel, and if you feel good, go for it.

        Good luck. If i may say so, you have a very good lead-up and if I were you, I would approach this HM as more of the same, not trying to overdo it but keeping it manageable and positive. Again, if you are recovering well and feel like you have something left for the last 5K, pick it up.


          Hi Bee2005! I ran this race last year in 1:336Tight lippedx


          I think this course will be really doable for you based on all of the info. But here are some things to think about. This race gets off to a FAST start....everyone is RACING at the beginning, so if you want to start slow be very conscious of that! You wind through downtown St Charles but pretty quickly get out to the country. There are a lot of turns at the start, so make sure you are running the tangents. Once you are out in the country bit there isn't much shade....and there aren't many people around either.


          You run through a nice big fancy neighborhood...lots of people, lots of turns and the neighborhood has these weird grates over the streets that you either have to run around or run across. I think they might put a piece of board over part of the grate?? either way its really awkward to run over.


          There is a turn right before the "hill" and it really is the only hill on the whole course...but it also goes on forever. alot of people walk it. after running flat for almost ten miles the hill hits at a bad point in the race and your legs just aren't ready for it. really a huge mental battle to make it up, it is a very long hill...and then you are basically downhill for the rest of the race Smile


          the last bit is horrible cause you can see the finish line for a long time before you actually cross it!


          good luck! hope you get out of this race what you are hoping for! I really enjoyed it and if not for a bad hamstring i would probably run it again this year


            If you really feel you are horrible at half pacing, I would not go out at 1:40 pace. I like your own advice start a bit conservative the first 2 miles.  You will want to feel like you are actually running too slow as with adrenaline, always feel great at start. Nothing wrong with holding back early. I like Seattle's viewpoint. Something to think about. I would also be a bit cautious with a hard longer work out with speed early in week. It will provide no benefit for the half and you need to make sure you are recovered especiallynwith no taper. If you keep the speed work then run half like Seattle recommended.

            H-WAVE - Helping Athletes Reduce Pain and Recover Faster


              Most people can't run a marathon in HMx2+10, especially on less than 50 MPW.  If you can it tells me your HM times are soft, and you may not be pushing yourself as hard as you can in your HMs.


              With a hilly 21:30 5K on a hot day, a 1:42 HM on a flat course and cooler day should be hard, but definitely doable.  Starting at 8 MPM is fine, but you would want to be at your goal pace by the second or third mile.  Otherwise you are giving up too much time.  I recommend warming up before the race to help get right into goal pace from the start.  I like a couple mile warm-up with some bouts of 30-60 seconds at goal pace or a little faster during the second mile.  Finish the warm-up about 15 minutes before the start.


                Thank you all so much. I'm not sure why I'm so bad at running half marathons. I am usually very good at pacing, but something about the distance throws me off. I tend to go out too fast and then blow up at the end. Although all of the halves I've run have been terrible weather (hot) so maybe that's partially to blame. I'm looking forward to a cooler half than my prior experiences. 60's isn't ideal, but certainly cooler than what I trained all summer. There's also a chance of rain, which I like.


                I chose to skip my intervals today and just run a straight 9 miles with a few hill sprints thrown in for fun. This is definitely the highest mileage I've ever run by far, and it feels like a huge accomplishment! I'd love to go out and smash my PR (1:47) in the process, but my eye is on the prize of the marathon. I will wait and see how I feel if I decide to go for the 1:42. I feel like 1:40 is a suicide pace, but maybe I'm just being overly cautious. I'd really like to use this race as a data point for my upcoming full, so I'd really like to race it as fast as I'm able.


                I think I will go out at a 7:55/8:00 pace for the first mile and go from there. At least I'll try to, if I can resist getting caught up in the adrenaline rush. I'll definitely run 2 miles before, as I'm going to try and get 16-17 in for the day (my plan calls for 18 on Sunday).


                Christirei thanks for the tips! The no-shade part makes me nervous as I'm a pre-dawn runner, so I'll make sure to bring a hat, I'm glad you mentioned that part.


                  I just want to thank everyone for their advice and encouragement. It gave me so much confidence today!


                  Pre-race: My BRF and I traveled about 2 hours to STL for the race and stayed in a hotel. We woke up at 4:30, ate oatmeal, got ready, and headed out by 5:30. The RD asked us to arrive by 6:00am for a 7:30 start time due to parking difficulties. We got there quickly and found a spot, and just hung out/relaxed in the car for about 45 minutes. Then we made some last-minute race preparations and headed to gear check/the start line. It was a decent sized race, I was told about 5000 runners total (there was a 5k, half, full, and half relay), but everything went very smoothly. After checking our gear, I did a 2.5 mile warm-up and then headed to the corral. They just had pace markers along the road, and I lined up at the front of the 8-mile pace corral. We rang our cowbells and off we went at 7:30 on the dot. The early weather forecast had a front coming through the night before the race, and dropping temps into the 50s. However that front never made it there, and the forecast kept creeping up all week. It ended up being about 70 degrees and 70 DP at the start. Not ideal at all, but fortunately there was a good deal of fog cover which ended up being a life saver.


                  Miles 1-3: We ran out of town and out into the country. It was pretty crowded at the start, but the pace was moving along pretty quickly. I had thought about trying to keep the 1:40 pacer in sight, but he disappeared very quickly and I never saw him again. I was trying very hard to control pace, as I felt great and my legs were ready to go. Splits: 7:51, 7:43, 7:43.


                  Miles 4-9: We ran through a nice neighborhood with lots of nice crowds. There were a lot of turns. At one point we were passing the runners who were ahead of us as the came back the out-and-back. I was shocked to see a woman in 2nd place, and she looked amazing. She ended up getting first overall! I fell into a great rhythm during these miles and I felt so strong. My pace felt very good but I still tried to hold back as much as I could. I was worried about the fog lifting or just simply blowing up when I got to the hill. I was taking a swig of Tailwind every 2-3 miles and drinking water at the water stations. I was steadily passing people but not being passed at all. Splits: 7:37, 7:37, 7:36, 7:31, 7:36, 7:33.


                  Miles 10-13: Miles 10-11 were definitely the toughest part of the race. The "small hill" turned out to be a mile+ long climb of about 110 feet. It didn't look like much but it seemed never ending. I tried to keep a steady effort, but I could feel my form breaking down some. I know my hill experience was helpful. I passed a ton of people on the hill. Funny note- the RD bragged about the "cheerleaders" on the big hill in one of the pre-race emails. This turned out to be 5 people in their late teens/early 20s with plastic pom-poms. One of them was on crutches, and he was the only one who looked even remotely happy to be there. I got a good laugh out of it. Once I made it to the top, there was an incredible downhill section. I really let loose here and managed my quickest split of the race. At the bottom of the hill it was time to get to work getting to the finish. My stomach started to bother me at this point just a little bit (It's my cryptonite) but I told it to shut up and pushed to the finish. Somehow a telemarketer busted through the do-not-disturb on my phone right at mile 13, and I hit the lap button frantically trying to shut it off. I finished strong and was thrilled with my time. Thank goodness Strava doesn't care about my lap button so I still have my splits. Splits: 7:42, 7:56, 7:28, 7:33, and 7:10 for the last .1. Official finish time: 1:40:59.


                  Post-race reflection: I was very happy with this time, as 1:42 was my A goal. I also felt like I held back a lot to keep from blowing up, and I'm fairly confident on a cooler day I could run sub-1:40. I've worked really hard at boosting my mileage, and I feel like a BQ (3:35) could be in my reach. I have about two more weeks before taper, so hopefully I can get strong weeks in the 50s. I honestly never thought I was capable of getting even close to the 1:30s for a half, let alone 59 seconds away. My Garmin pace was a 7:39 with a 13.1 time of 1:40:10. Everyone I talked to said the course ran a little long (about .15), but who knows if that was just from all the turns. I tried to run tangents as best I could, but there were quite a few runners throughout the whole race and that made it tough at times. Luckily, the full I'm running is about as straight as it gets and quite a bit smaller than this race, meaning no crowd weaving or tangents to worry about. And I SHOULD have much more ideal racing weather mid-November, but it seems I'm cursed, so possibly not.


                  Thanks again for all the advice. I'll be back in about 5 weeks for some full advice.


                  Old , Ugly and slow

                    Great Job

                    But what is BRF ?

                    first race sept 1977 last race sept 2007


                    2019  goals   1000  miles  , 190 pounds , deadlift 400 touch my toes


                      Congrats. You ran a very smart race and are very fit. No doubt, you are well under 1:40 with cool weather. Stay healthy and confident going into the full.


                      BRF - best running friend??

                      H-WAVE - Helping Athletes Reduce Pain and Recover Faster


                        Great Job

                        But what is BRF ?


                        Yes, Best Running Friend.


                          Congratulations!  You ran a good strong race, and more to the point, you obviously trained really well.  keep it up, and keep us posted on your marathon in November!

                          Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.
                          - Mark Twain


                            Bee- I ran in a marathon that same day, and the weather was pretty miserable where I was too... it was in a lot of the eastern part of the country.  Our weather was only slightly better than yours, and it seemed to cost the full marathoners about 12-13 minutes at the speed you were going, For a half, I would think its maybe more like 3 minutes.  There are no certainties at this distance, but I think your BQ chances are excellent at the moment.  I would also want to beat my BQ by 2 minutes or more this year to feel pretty confident.  A dew point of 70 is quite miserable.

                            5k- 18:55 (2018)    10K- 39:04 (2017)    Marathon- 3:00:10 (2018)