Fitness / Running

5 Expert Tips for Pacing Yourself on Race Day

Stop yourself from huffing and puffing all the way to the finish line.

You’re at the starting line on race day and your adrenaline’s pumping and your energy’s flaring. When the gun goes off, you take off on a sprint, clocking speedy miles like it’s nothing … until it’s really something. As the excitement wears off and the miles keep coming, you feel gassed way before you’ve reached the finish. And, that’s when you realize that you should have maintained a better race pace.

To hit your running personal best, you don’t have to run like the wind right out of the gate—and you shouldn’t. “Pacing is different for everyone. But, it is important, so [that] you don’t burn out or get fatigued too early,” says Aaptiv trainer Benjamin Green. “Your pacing strategy will be different between a 5K and a marathon, but you always want to have a strategy.”

That’s where we come in. We want to help you figure out when to slow down and when you ultimately want to pick up your PR. Channel Green’s tips for figuring out a pace plan for race day.

Aaptiv has workouts designed specifically for finding, and improving your race pace. Check them out in-app today. 

Figure out just how fast you can go.

The most important thing to do first (before race day) is to figure out how fast you can run. Additionally, you want to see how long you can sustain that stride. Green suggests doing a two- to three-mile time trial test (the former, if you’re new to running long distances). Go at all-out effort to see how fast you can finish at that sustained effort level. “This will help with pace calculation. It also helps to learn what different effort levels feel like, and [what] you can hold for the particular amount of time,” Green says.

Work through different runs while training.

Green says that his marathon pace on race day is slightly faster than the tempo runs he does during training. This helps him finish fast, without hitting a wall. A tempo run requires working at a steady pace, one that’s comfortably hard, and just below your lactate threshold and your goal race pace. “These are designed to build endurance,” Green says.

Embrace the excitement.

Come race day, you’ll likely feel super eager to get started—especially if you put in months of training. You can use this to your advantage to push yourself forward. Just be careful not to go overboard. For a 5K, feel free to go at that all-out effort, using your increased energy to take it up a notch, Green says. Just know that you’ll have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. But, for a half or full marathon, it’s better to be conservative, so go slower than that adrenaline is pushing you to do.

Get warmed up.

Green suggests doing a warm-up before you start the race so that you’re race pace-ready by the time that you start. Also, your pace might be ten to 20 seconds slower for the first half mile to one mile, depending on your experience. “I would expect all experienced runners to be race ready at the start and settle into race pace soon after,” Green says.

Say a few words.

Tune into how you’re feeling and how breathless you are by trying to talk out loud. If you’re running toward that half or full-marathon finish, you want to be able to say a few words, but you shouldn’t be able to read a book aloud, Green says. Do a little talk test and scale up or down, if needed.

Work on finding and maintaining your race pace in the weeks leading up to your big day. You’ll be better able to lock it in that day and you’ll avoid the dreaded burn out.

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