Marathon Monday: Marathon Goal Pace Training + Portland Marathon Training Week 4

Marathon Goal Pace Training | This Runner's Recipes

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Did anyone race?

This post is part of a series on tips, workouts, and training for your best marathon. To catch up on the Marathon Mondays series, you can see the previous posts here.

Marathon Goal Pace Training

Many runners enter into marathon training with a goal time in mind. Even if you are not training for a PR, you will still have a general idea of the approximate pace that you will be able to sustain for 26.2 miles. Whether you are hoping to run a PR or just want to finish, pacing during your marathon is essential for a successful and enjoyable race.

With all the excitement and nerves that permeate race day, the marathon itself certainly is not the right time to run your goal pace for the first time. Instead, you want to incorporate goal pace runs into your marathon training to run your best and fastest marathon. Even if you are training for a shorter race, you can still benefit from adding miles at your goal race pace to your running.

Why is goal pace training so effective? Let’s examine the mental and physical effects of training at goal pace.

Train Your Legs

Over the course of a 14-18 week training plan, a weekly run at marathon goal pace will improve your running economy at that pace. If you’re training for a 4:00 hour marathon, 9:00 minute miles will feel a lot easier on race day if you’ve run them regularly before. It’s simple physiological adaptation: the more you run at a given pace, the more time your body has to adapt to that pace. In addition to improving your running economy at marathon goal pace, this training will increase your overall endurance by working your aerobic system, building a stronger heart, and increasing your capillary density. As you build your endurance and your economy at marathon goal pace, your body will learn to burn more fat as fuel at that pace, which can prevent you from bonking during the later miles of the race.

Train Your Brain

One of the most common marathon pacing mistakes is going out too fast, which will lead to hitting a wall and slowing down during the second half of the race. You are tapered, adrenaline is pumping through your veins, and a cheering crowd and hundreds of other runners surround you, making it all to easy to run faster than intended. By incorporating regular marathon goal pace runs into your training, you will internalize how your goal pace feels. On race day, then, you will be able to better control your pace, especially during the easier first few miles. Long goal pace runs will teach you how to control yourself and keep a consistent pace.

Internalizing your marathon goal pace will also build your confidence for race day. Running 26.2 miles, especially if you are aiming for a PR, can intimidate even the most experienced runners, and your mental state can make or break your race. Goal pace training serves as training for your brain as much as your body. If you have regularly run 10 miles at your marathon goal pace during training, then you can confidently know you are fit enough to maintain that pace for the entire marathon. That knowledge will power you through many of the later miles, when feelings of fatigue could cause you to doubt yourself.

Train Your Stomach

Poor pacing and self-doubt are not the only factors that can derail your marathon goals. GI distress can cause cramping and frequent bath stops, both of which will dramatically decrease your pace. While you can never guarantee that your GI system will behave perfectly on race day, practicing your race day nutrition during marathon goal pace training runs will adapt your body to take in calories in general and, more specifically, your particular brand of fuel, while running at a faster pace. This will also help you practice actually opening the packet and eating the gel or chomps while running fast, so you do not have to worry as much about dropping gels or choking on your fuel on race day.

You can also use goal pace runs to practice your hydration strategy, ensure your outfit will not chafe that day, and test out your shoes. Goal pace runs can and should serve as a rehearsal for race day!

While training at marathon goal pace offers a myriad of benefits, you want to be careful not to overdo it during your training. Running at marathon goal pace too frequently can lead to overtraining; even if you do not end up injured, you could end up leaving your race in your training and run significantly slower than you have trained for on race day. Many training plans, including the Hansons Marathon Method, devote one day per week to training at marathon goal pace.

Portland Marathon Training Week 4

Marathon Goal Pace Training

This week of training went smoothly and according to plan. One aspect of training with which I have been struggling is my goal pace runs. I’m not struggling to maintain an 8:00 minute per mile pace; I’m struggling to slow down to that pace. I keep settling comfortably into a 7:40-7:45/mile pace and I am fairly positive I could not maintain that pace for a marathon, especially based on my previous half marathon times. 

Monday: AM: 8 miles on the treadmill (1-2% incline): 2 mile warm-up, 6 x 800 meters (3:31, 3:30, 3:30, 3:29, 3:29. 3:28) with 400 meter recovery jog, 1 mile cool-down. PM: 15 minutes of core work.

Tuesday: AM: 6 miles easy, 9:04/mile. PM: 30 minutes of strength training.

Wednesday: 9 miles with 6 miles at goal marathon pace (7:41/mile average). Definitely my best run of the week!

Thursday: 6 miles easy, 9:10/mile. PM: 40 minutes of strength training and core work. 

Friday: AM: 8 miles easy, 8:49/mile. PM: 20 minutes of easy Pilates.

Saturday: AM: 8 miles easy on the treadmill (0-2% incline), 8:49/mile.
PM: 7 miles of hiking to Lake Serene in the Cascades, ~2000 feet elevation gain. Definitely our most challenging hike to date and I loved it. 

Lake Serene Hiking

45 miles total for the week. 

[Tweet “3 reasons why goal pace training will prepare you to run your best & fastest marathon from @thisrunrecipes #fitfluential #runchat #marathon”]

Questions of the Day:
How was your running last week? What was your best run?
How frequently do you train at goal race pace?
What is your goal for your next race?

Sign Up for My Newsletter for More Running Tips

* indicates required

Share this post

14 Responses

  1. First of all, I love your new layout! It looks great. Secondly, I am seriously so impressed (I know I say this a lot over here, but I am!) with your mileage. I’m hoping to run another marathon at some point, and I can’t wait to sort through all of your running posts for tips. It took me a few months to finally figure out what to eat during my training runs (cereal, oddly enough). I was not a fan of Gu at all!

    1. Thank you! I’d been wanting to change themes for a while, and then my theme started acting up last week, so no better time! I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts! It seriously makes me so happy when people like my running posts, especially since I’m going to start coaching in the fall!

  2. Loving the new look! Great post, especially the tip regarding training your stomach. It took me a while to realize the reason my stomach wasn’t feeling great on runs wasn’t because of my training, it was because of my fueling! Running was okay, finally got back into incorporating a long run into my weekend routine which I am pretty happy about. I usually train one time a week at goal pace or faster. So I will either do a tempo run at GP or a speed workout at faster than GP.
    I’m not totally sure what I want my goal to be for NYCM, but I will keep you posted : ) Have a fabulous day!!

    1. Thank you! It was time for a new look, so I’m glad people like it! I’m glad you were able to get back to doing weekend long runs. And I’m excited to hear about your NYCM goals because you are so super speedy!

  3. My first marathon I did too much training at goal pace, rather than saving it for particular training moments. Thus I ended up fast, but hurt. This training cycle, I feel like I am going to end up with way too much time NOT training at goal pace due to coaching. It is helping my stomach but not helping my legs!

    1. Happy stomach and the awesomeness of coaching are good things! And I’m pretty sure you’re going to crush it at Chicago even without much goal pace training!

  4. Hello! I’m so glad I just stumbled upon your blog! I travel up to Olympia/Seattle/Spokane every week for work, so I love finding local bloggers. I’ve only done a half marathon, and a lot of your advice makes sense to me. Especially the training the belly part!

  5. Awesome week of training! Couldn’t agree more about the importance of training at goal race pace. This helped me so much at my last race which I ran a PR at. The trial and error with fuel is imperative too. I don’t think we can really know what works for us unless we try it during training! I have learned that my body preforms well with whole, nutritious foods.

    1. Thanks! You’re so right that we can’t know what works unless we try it again and again in training – training is almost like a big test run for race day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *