1 November 2015

Pace Team Leaders

Get Prepared for the Event

The Auckland Marathon provides Pace Team Leaders for participants wanting to run a specific time each year for the half and full marathon distance.

Each Pace Team Leader will be wearing a helium balloon and a Pace time on the back of their t-shirts. There will be one person running as a Pace Team Leader targeting the following Proposed Pace Times (please note times depend on Pace Team Leader availability):

Pace Team Leaders

 

 

Marathon- start time 6:00am

03:00
03:15
03:30
03:45
04:00
04:15
04:30
 

 

 

Half Marathon- start time 6:50am

01:30
01:40
01:50
02:00
 

 

If you would like to be considered for a Pace Team Leader spot please email racedirector@aucklandmarathon.co.nz.

Pacing strategies

Chris Lynch is employed as a lecturer at Unitec and is currently completing his MSc in pacing strategies in rowing. Chris is also involved in the Human Performance Laboratory at Unitec and consults with a variety of clients, including both elite and recreational athletes. Contact Chris if you want any advice on VO2 max and lactate threshold testing.

Chris Lynch clynch@unitec.ac.nz 09 815 4321 ext 8492

Click here to view the Physiological Response to Running

Whether you want to run your best marathon, or simply complete your first marathon at the Auckland Marathon, meticulous preparation and having challenging but realistic goals are vital. A part of that meticulous preparation is to find, train and then complete your race at your optimal pace. This is your pacing strategy.

A pacing strategy is simply how you distribute work or energy throughout an exercise task. What the science can say about what is an optimal pace can often differ to the reality of performance and these differences can be for a number of reasons; the nature of the course, the weather conditions, the “buzz” of the event and how you are feeling physically and psychologically will all affect your pacing strategy. However, for a distance event such as a half or full marathon adopting one of two possible pacing strategies will work well. The two most successful marathon pacing strategies are;

  • An even pace strategy - running even splits throughout the race or
  • A positive pace strategy where your pace slows a few seconds per kilometre as the race progresses
Why be concerned about pace?

The Auckland Marathon event you are competing in is your event and it is your race to run, nobody else’s and so it is important that you find a pace that is optimal for you. You should consider that you have a limited metabolic capacity and you will want aim to ensure that you measure out that limited capacity across the whole distance effectively. You also want to aim to avoid the onset of premature fatigue. Achieve these aims and you will cross the finish line in as fast a time as you can.

Not knowing or working to your optimal pacing strategy will result in a less than desired outcome. A classic pacing strategy that often results in failure is to start too quickly. It may be adrenaline or it may be a desire to stride out into clear road, or it may be a conscious decision, whatever the reason it is unlikely you will get away with it; too fast a start in race such as a half or full marathon results in premature fatigue and a consequent slowing in order to finish. Another less than optimal strategy is to start slowly thinking that you can make up for lost time later in the race. This strategy is unlikely to lead to disaster but it is also unlikely to lead to your best race, making up the deficit incurred from running slowly during the first half of the race is practically impossible to do.

So if starting to quickly is likely to lead to premature fatigue and starting too slowly means to make up time to complete the event in a performance best is too difficult what is best? Your best options for pace that will be optimal are to try to run as even pace as possible or what is known as a positive pacing strategy, which is where you slow a few seconds per kilometre as the race progresses.

Physiologically, your optimal pace for the half or full marathon will be slightly below the pace at which your lactate threshold occurs. It is physiologically optimal because you will use your slow twitch fibres to their maximum potential and avoid a build up of lactic acid that will cause premature fatigue. Be aware though that as your slow twitch muscle fibres fatigue during the event, you will begin to recruit less economical fast twitch fibres and this will result in a rise in lactate so for most marathoners in the 2:30 to 4:00 hour range, the most effective pacing strategy is to run the first half of the marathon about one to three minutes faster than the second half. By using a positive pacing strategy you will find that you still need to increase your effort moderately during the second half of the race to maintain your pace just below your lactate threshold.

Of course while this is physiologically optimal, you also need to adjust your pacing based on the profile of the course, weather conditions etc. The start of most big events are so congested that your pacing will likely be erratic during the first few kilometres as you weave your way through the congestion. Relax, and when you have the opportunity get back onto set pace.

Finding your pace

The best way to find your pace is to use the information you get from your training diary. If you are keeping distances and times for your training runs, use that information to gauge your target pace. If you are measuring heart rate use that too, you are likely to be intuitively running slightly below your lactate threshold in the longer runs anyway. Be prepared to experiment a little with your pace in the early days of training, you may find you can run comfortably faster than you already do. Set a challenging but realistic target for a longer run and then attempt to pace as evenly as possible for it.

An excellent way to scientifically determine optimal pace is to have a VO2max and lactate threshold test done at a sport science laboratory. Measurement of your respiratory responses to increasing workloads on a treadmill, with measurement of blood lactate levels at each workload, is an effective method to determine the heart rate at which your lactate threshold occurs and this information can then be used to effectively prescribe training intensity for longer runs.

Once you know your pace train at that pace. For most marathoners, its recommend that you complete runs of 21km, 24km, 28km, 32km at your known pace during the last weeks before your marathon. These runs are the most specific marathon preparation that you will do. The intention is to stress your body in a similar way to the marathon, but to limit the duration so your required recovery time is only a few days. Make sure that you have had a couple of recovery days before a long run at race pace, and schedule at least two easy days afterward as well.

These runs offer the opportunity to build confidence that the pace you have found is the optimal one for you. Use the first few kilometres to warm up, and then finish the run with a prescribed number of kilometres at race pace. This will give you great confidence that the pace you are using is the right one for you. In addition to the physiological and psychological benefits these runs provide, they are an excellent chance to practice drinking at race pace. You can of course use shorter runs at your race pace as another useful element of your event preparation.

Events prior to the marathon are another opportunity to get used to your race pace. They have the advantage that you have running a measured course, with plenty of other people to run with. Be careful, however, to limit yourself to only your race pace in these shorter events though!

Auckland Marathon Race Day

You have meticulously planned and prepared yourself for this day so on race day, try to adhere closely to your pacing plan, yet maintain a degree of flexibility. The variables of the weather, how you feel, and the pacing of other runners will influence you now but as much as possible stick to the plan. Know your planned splits so you can monitor your progress along the way. If the weather is hot, you will need to run more conservatively during the first half and can expect a greater decrement in performance as the race progresses. With correct pacing on a hot and/or humid day, however, you will find that although your finish time is slower than you would have liked, your finishing place will be much better than expected.

There is a large psychological and small drafting advantage to running in a group, so you should adjust your pace moderately, if necessary, to stay with other runners. When you are running into a headwind, the drafting advantage becomes significant, so conserve energy by “tucking in behind.” When you get out of the headwind you can then pick your pace back up to race pace. If you are feeling strong during the last few kilometres of the marathon, pick up your effort based on how you feel with the confidence that you have paced yourself wisely.

Top tips
  • Decide to adopt a positive pacing strategy that allows a slowing a few seconds per kilometre as the race progresses.
  • Have a VO2max and lactate threshold test done at a sport science laboratory to effectively prescribe your training intensity.
  • Aim to run the first half of the marathon about one to three minutes faster than the second half.
  • Complete a run of 21km, 24km, 28km, or 32km at your known pace during the last weeks before the Auckland full marathon
  • Use an event prior to the marathon as an opportunity to get used to your race pace.
  • Give yourself a final reminder not to accidentally start too fast, run a few kilometres at race pace about four days before your marathon.
  • Remember the start of the event will be congested and your pacing will be erratic, relax, and when you have the opportunity get back onto your set pace.
  • Write your splits on your hand so you can refer to them later in the race.
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