Cheruiyot v Keitany: How important is marathon pacing?

A look at two of the leading protagonists in the London Marathon shows the importance of pacing to run your best marathon time. While Mary Keitany set out at world record pace in London, Vivian Cheruiyot ran a more controlled and consistent race to ultimately take the win.

A look at each ladies 5km splits tells the story.

                                            Keitany                                                  Cheruiyot

5km                               15:46                                                   16:15

10km                             16:00                                                   16:38

15km                             16:00                                                   16:25

20km                             16:04                                                   16:13

25km                             16:34                                                   16:25

30km                             16:39                                                   16:23

35km                             17:33                                                    16:29

40km                             19:47                                                    16:20

42.2km                          2:24:27                                                2:18:31

1st half/2nd half           67:16/77:11                                          68:56/69:35

These splits tell a story about both ladies, firstly a brave decision by Keitany to go out at world record pace and as the second fastest lady in history it is an obvious goal to break Paula Radcliffe’s world record. Also a brave decision by Cheruiyot not to go with Keitany and Dibaba through the first 5km and run her own pace. Cheruiyot is the current Olympic champion at 5000m running 14:29 to win in Rio so no doubt could have stayed with the lead pace. The decision to be controlled and run a consistent pace over the entire marathon paid dividends in the end.

At 20km Cheruiyot was 1:41 behind Keitany and from there she started to close the gap, overtaking Ketiany after 35km. Cheruiyot’s 39 sec positive split was run on a warm day in London. A very patient and well paced race by Cheruiyot, running a pace that she could consistently hold for the 42.2km from the start of the marathon till the end.

How can the average runner benefit Cheruiyot’s pacing example?

There are two lessons here that average runners can take away.

  1. Consistent pacing is the key

The best marathon results are achieved by consistent pacing throughout the entire marathon. Cheruiyot’s marathon in London is a perfect example of marathon pacing. Her first 5km split is just 5 sec faster then her 35-40km split when the race was there to win. To run a 40sec positive split on a warm day in a 5 minute personal best means she was controlled and patient early and gave her best effort in the latter stages of the race.

This strategy can be replicated by every runner trying to achieve their goals. Be patient and controlled and when the marathon asks for your best effort you’ll be in a position to give it.

2. Know your goal pace is achievable on the day

If consistent pacing throughout the marathon is the goal you need to know your goal is achievable. If your best marathon is a 3:35 then attempting to break 3 hours may be unachievable. You may be able to run 3 hour marathon pace for a good part of the marathon but when it gets tough your pace will ultimately fall away and the last quarter of the marathon is most likely a painful experience. Cheruiyot clearly didn’t believe she could run world record pace for 42.2km, she did believe she could run sub 2:20 and paced her race perfectly to do this and ultimately win the race.

The other part to this is adjusting your goal if the conditions aren’t ideal. It was warm in London and a lot of runners suffered on the day due to the heat. Perhaps Keitany should have adjusted her expectation with the warm weather. Adjust your goal if necessary.

Pacing is an important part of running to any distance, learning this skill and be realistic about your goals and paces can help you achieve your goals and ensure your enjoy your race day experiences.

happy pacing, happy running

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.