The short answer is a marathon will hurt at some stage between the start and the finish. The long answer is difficult to quantify, it will be determined by how committed you were to training and how ambitious you’ve run the race to this point.
If you’ve trained well and run your race at a consistent pace then the marathon will hurt somewhere between half way and 35km. If you haven’t done the training or run too quick early then this point may arrive somewhat earlier then you like or expect. Ultimately at some point during a marathon you’ll hurt and you’ll be asked some questions of yourself.
How you respond to these questions ultimately determines the outcome of your race.
If you run your marathon smartly or strategically you’ll have run a consistent pace throughout, the effect of this will mean running will be relatively comfortable for the first half of the race before the effort required to maintain this consistent pace becomes more difficult. The elastic band gets tighter as the race unfolds, with the goal being for the hypothetical elastic band breaks.
How do you do this?
Know when the marathon is going to hurt.
There is no an exact science as every race is different and every run can unfold differently. But knowing your ability and being smart about goals and execution will help.
- Understand the pace you can run. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but also don’t be too conservative and leave time on the course.
- Run the race consistently – Running too fast early is a recipe for disaster
- When the elastic tightens – Be ready to give your best effort
Know your Pace
Knowing your best race pace is difficult. We all want to run personal bests and improve our race times. A couple of marathon specific training sessions you can run to test your marathon ready fitness are;
- 3 x 14km with 30 min rest between each. Run each effort at marathon goal pace. If you can hold this pace for each of the efforts then you can run this pace in a marathon. The third effort should feel hard and simulate the end of the marathon.
- 5 x 5km with 5 min stationery or 1km jog rest between each. Run each effort at goal marathon goal pace. Another session where the difficulty becomes harder as the run increases. Again, the final effort should feel difficult but not too hard.
These session should be run no closer than three weeks before the marathon. Particularly the 3 x 14km as it is a tough session and has 42km of running within it.
Run the race consistently
Running consistent pace throughout your marathon is the best way to maximise the time before the marathon begins to bite back. If you run too fast you’ll suffer in the back end, if you run too slow you’ll give yourself too much deficit to make up when things get tougher and also risk leaving time on the course.
The best marathoners in the world use this method when they attempt to run fast marathons. Eliud Kipchoge in berlin last year is a perfect example of this method of marathon running.
Be ready to give your best
When the marathon hurts and the elastic begins to tighten be ready. And be ready mentally to give your best effort. If you’ve done the training and ran the race consistently to this point then you’ve given yourself the best chance to succeed.
This point in the marathon is when you need to give everything you have, dig deep and ask yourself why you are doing this in the first place. We all have different motivations to run a marathon and these motivations can be what helps you through when the marathon bites back.
Be ready and be prepared to give everything you’ve got when the moment arrives.
Good luck in your next marathon. Reach out if you have any questions preparing for your next race.