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Master Marathon Pacing – Part 2

Marathon pacing – it’s a skill that requires understanding, planning and practice. Pacing is a challenge that most marathoners have grappled with at some point.

As we explore in Master Marathon Pacing Part 1, a 2021 study revealed that 17% of women and 28% of men tend to “hit the wall” during a marathon. This struggle is not limited to specific ability levels or age-groups, making it a common hurdle for all of us.

As a fellow marathoner, I’ve grappled with the struggles of pacing so I understand the frustration and the many factors that can impact your ability to hold a consistent pace for the full 42.2kms. As we outlined in part 1, once you have gained a sound understanding of marathon pacing, it’s time to put it into practice. Here’s how:

Marathon-specific training

Incorporating specific marathon pacing sessions into your training plan can help improve your ability to sustain a steady pace over long distances. Alternating between high-intensity effort and recovery periods can enhance your endurance and develop a better sense of pacing. Running shorter distances at the marathon target pace is an easy way to do this.

Example 1. 10-12km at your target race pace.
Example 2. 30km run including 5-10km at target race pace.
Example 3. 30 minutes at target marathon race pace, 15 minutes at ½ marathon pace.

The key to race preparation is gradually building up your distances over 12–16-week weeks, including ample recovery between marathon pacing sessions, and avoiding overdoing key sessions.
The key to running your best doesn’t only hinge on your sessions. Adaptation to your sessions, overall stress levels and health are important factors to consider in a balanced marathon program.
Visualisation: Mental preparation is equally important to physical training regarding marathon pacing. Uncharted territory can be difficult for anyone to navigate.

A good sports psychologist can provide tools to help execute your pacing strategy. Visualisations can help build confidence and mental resilience, keeping you focused and disciplined on race day. I always had a mental race plan that I discussed with my sports psychologist and coach well before race day.

I frequently visualised a mental and physical race plan. This didn’t always result in my races going according to plan, but it certainly helped me get the most out of myself and maintain mental focus and determination even when things went sideways.

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Race-Day Rehearsal

Practice your pacing strategy during long training runs leading up to the marathon to familiarise yourself with all aspects of your race, such as nutrition, hydration, routine, and your target pace. Connect with how it feels to maintain your target pace over an extended period. Consider participating in shorter races or time trials as race-day rehearsals to fine-tune your pacing strategy and build race-day confidence.

In conclusion, mastering marathon pacing is essential for endurance runners seeking to achieve their goals and maximise their performance. You can confidently optimise your performance and conquer the distance by understanding your target pace, implementing effective pacing strategies, and utilizing tools such as marathon calculators.

At the Athlete Sanctuary, we encourage our athletes to listen to their bodies, trust their training, and embrace the journey toward becoming stronger, more resilient athletes.

Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or preparing for your first race, prioritising pacing can make all the difference in your marathon experience. If you are keen to better understand how to enjoy the thrill of crossing the finish line strong, contact us to discuss your next marathon goal.


Hanley, Brian, (2018), Pacing Profiles and Pack Running at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. Journal of Sports Sciences, vol. 36, no. 20, pp. 2339–2345.
De Leeuw, A. W., Meerhoff, L. A., & Knobbe, A. (2018). Effects of pacing properties on performance in long-distance running. Big Data, 6(4), 248-261.
Oficial-Casado, F., Uriel, J., Perez-Soriano, P., & Priego Quesada, J. I. (2021). Effect of marathon characteristics and runners’ time category on pacing profile. European Journal of Sport Science, 21(11), 1559-1566.
Renfree, A., & Gibson, A. S. C. (2013). Influence of different performance levels on pacing strategy during the Women’s World Championship marathon race. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 8(3), 279-285.
Smyth, B. (2021). How recreational marathon runners hit the wall: A large-scale data analysis of late-race pacing collapse in the marathon. PloS one, 16(5), e0251513.
Muñoz, Iker, et al. (2018). The Influence of Different Pacing Strategies on Marathon Performance and Fatigue: A Computer Simulation Study. European Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 118, no. 9, 2018, pp. 1757–1769.