Whether you have been running for a long time or if you are new to the running community, you have certainly heard conversations about marathon running. When people decide to tackle the marathon distance conversations turn to many things including training plans, nutrition off the course and on, destination races and, of course, a marathon pace chart.
Some new runners make the mistake of thinking that their pace is their pace, no matter what distance they are running. That could not be further from the truth.
So if you’re planning a marathon, how do you navigate all of this? How do you pick a time goal? What pace should you try to maintain? Excellent questions!
Do The Work
There are many excellent training plans out there to help get you to the starting (and finish!) line healthy and prepared to run 26.2 miles to the best of your ability. In addition to that, as any avid runner will tell you, you can find solid food fuel in all forms such as athlete-specific items like blocks, chews and gels. Some runners rely on liquid calories during races to avoid stomach issues. Yet others carry “real food” items to keep themselves moving across the miles.
The point is, it isn’t enough to want to run a marathon. You need to do the work. If you are a beginner, there are many beginner plans out there. If you have already gone the distance and are hoping to improve your time there are plans for that too.
When people talk about marathon pace and pace predictors one thing is true: experts who create conversion formulas to figure out how quickly an athlete can run any distance are assuming you have done the work. No matter how tough you are you can’t expect to just get through a marathon.
What Should My Pace Be For a Marathon?
One formula many people use to predict their marathon time is to take a recent half-marathon time, double it and then add 10 – 20 minutes. That is an estimate of how fast you could potentially run a marathon. Of course, this does not consider external factors such as the course, temperature on race day, travel to the race, etc. It also leaves out how the runner is physically feeling on any given day, things that can go awry such as losing fuel on the course or getting a terrible night’s sleep the night before.
In 2019 the average finish time for a man running a marathon was 4:30:46 and for women 4:56:30. So if you are new to the marathon world don’t hold yourself up to elites, keep this in the back of your mind.
Runner’s World Race Time Predictor
The Runner’s World Race Time Predictor will let you pick any race distance from 1500 to the marathon to predict your finish time.
While some race predictors only have one prior race point from which they pull data, this predictor has room for two prior race times (which can be varying distances), as well as total miles run per week during training. This is helpful for accuracy because the more data points of information you have the more accurate the algorithm can be.
Sports Tracks also has a race time predictor. Even though it uses only one race data point and gender as considering factors, it was quite accurate in predicting my marathon time for me.
Most experts think that for average runners you should add 6-7% to those estimated times if it is your first marathon. If you are an experienced competitive runner, this may not hold true for you.
Most Runner’s Slow Down
Even though we all know it isn’t ideal, we also know that most recreational runners slow down during a distance run. What does this mean? It means that their pace for the second half of a marathon is typically slower per mile than the first half.
We mention this because when looking at a marathon pace chart if you run like most people (especially those new to the marathon), you likely won’t run the same pace through the whole marathon.
This is why it’s in your best interest to practice pacing while training.
Pacing a 4:30 Marathon
If you are trying to run a marathon in four hours and thirty minutes, the below chart will help you keep focused. The problem is in the first miles, you will feel like you are moving very slowly.
As you can see, this running pace chart lays out your time each mile throughout the whole race. If you are hoping to run a marathon at this pace, you will want to do some longer runs at this pace.
Learning to hone in on a pace and stay there with consistency is something many runners struggle with. It takes a lot of work and patience.
What Is The Pace for a 6 Hour Marathon?
If you’re shooting to finish your marathon in under six hours, you can do so by maintaining a 13:44 pace for the distance. Of course, you need to figure in fatigue across the course, time for water and fuel, as well as the difficulties of the course itself.
Most marathons stay open anywhere from six to seven hours so if you’re new to the world of marathoning and worried about finishing the distance in the allotted amount of time, train accordingly.
Setting and Reaching Goals
Whatever your goals for your first marathon, there are definite tidbits of wisdom for potential success. First, as stated before, just do the work. Once you have chosen a plan, follow it as faithfully as you can. Especially dangerous is skimping on long runs. Putting in the miles will help you on race day.
You should also practice with your fuel and hydration. The last thing you want is to be putting something new into your body on race day. This means either carrying your own fuel and hydration or intentionally practicing with whatever you know they will provide on the course.
Research the course you are going to run, think about travel so you aren’t showing up to the start line tired or with cramped legs, and plan for logistics like getting to the starting line, parking, etc. ahead of time. Stressful race morning is not helpful!
Most of all, especially if it is your first marathon, be kind to yourself and realistic with your expectations. A first marathon is a huge accomplishment, no matter what the finish time is.