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Tips For Pacing The Royal Parks Half Marathon

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The key to a strong race at any distance is good, consistent training – but even if you have logged months of quality preparation, it’s still possible for your big day to go awry if you don’t pace your race sensibly.

If you’ve entered the Royal Parks Half Marathon on 14th October, you’ll probably have been told several times not to go out too fast. It’s the most clichéd piece of running advice going, but no less correct for that fact.

Moving beyond that basic advice you might also have been told that running a negative split is a wise race strategy. For more information on what that means, plus other key pacing tips, we spoke to ON Running Coach Andy Hobdell.

What is a negative split and why is it a good strategy for a half marathon?

It means running the second half of the race faster than the first half of the race. A classic example of this is Eliud Kipchoge’s recent world record [2hr 1min 39sec] for the marathon in Berlin, where he ran the first half marathon in 61min 6sec and then the second half in 60min 33sec. His 30 to 35km split was his fastest of the entire race.

Over the years I have seen people who were in the form of their lives miss out on running personal bests or winning medals because they have been too carried away with their pace in the first half of the race. It’s amazing how much time can be lost in the second half of a race by starting out too fast – not to mention how much time can be gained by starting conservatively! Sensible and in control is best.

You don’t have to run massively slower in the first half of the race. An easy approach is to aim to run five seconds per km slower than your target pace in the first half and then at halfway ease the pace upwards.

Do you have any tips for stopping yourself going out too fast?

Remind yourself of the training and the races you have done in preparation for race day. You have spent months preparing for the half marathon and covered many miles. Why would you throw away your chance of running your best race by getting carried away in the first five to ten kilometres?

Look at the course that you are going to race and plan your race strategy. Set yourself sensible splits to hit for the first five and ten km markers on the course.

Don’t worry about the people starting quicker than you. Know that with a sensible approach in the first half of the race you’ll be in a better position to have a strong run in the second half of the race, where you’ll start passing those who were not as sensible as you. If you wear a running watch, keep half an eye on the pace for the first few kilometres while you ease into your race pace.

At what point of the race should you start to crank up your speed?

So, you’ve run a sensible race, you’ve hit the first five and ten kilometre targets, you’ve just gone past halfway and you’re feeling good. This is the point not to get carried away but assess where you are in the race. If you’re running with a good group of people and are working well together, settle in for the next five kilometres. If the group starts to slow then push on.

I would then say the 15km point is a good position to start testing yourself with the pace and pushing a little harder. You’ve covered three-quarters of the race and are now into the push for the finish. You will have run many 5K runs in training, so having around 5K to go is a good point mentally to press for the finish.

If you have started out too fast and feel tired at the 10K mark or earlier, what should your strategy be for getting through the rest of the race?

Try to relax and ease back on the pace. Think about your breathing and allow yourself to recover. Break down the final part of the race, one kilometre at a time. Don’t become obsessed with the pace – focus more on how your body is feeling.

With all the work you have put into preparing for the race, the fitness is there. You just have to let your body recover and then you’ll be able to push for the finish using a more sensible rhythm.

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