Training for a Marathon–How to Pace Yourself foo

I got a lot of questions about my shirt sizing and shorts from race day.

What I wore to the OC Marathon…

what I wore to the marathon

  • ProCompression Visor
  • RunEatRepreat tech shirt – in Large, someone asked about sizing for my spreadshirt shop. I’d say they run pretty normal for women’s sizes.
  • Brooks Infiniti Shorts – They have a liner around the leg so they don’t ride up too much. They’re still a little short IRL but not so short you need to wax first.
  • Brooks Pure Line Shoes

Now for the $20.00 question…

How did I PR in another marathon?!

Really it all clicked at the Long Beach Marathon in October for 2 reasons. (I ran a 3:55 – 8:58 pace that day.)

1. I figured out how /what works for my body to eat and drink on long runs. I used to get really bad cramps around mile 21 and this helped me a ton.

 My Fueling for a Marathon post is here.

2. Long Beach was a training run for the New York City Marathon and I was NOT ready for a full marathon just yet. Since I knew it was my last long run before NYC I went out easy and was determined to leave something in the tank.

I really thought I might not be able to finish the race since it was hot and I hadn’t done enough 20 milers. Add in the fact that I have a little blog that people read and if I quit I would be embarrassed = motivation to be conservative and not completely eat sht at race day.

I kept an eye on my watch and tried not to let myself go faster than 8:50s for the first half. My goal pace was 9 minute miles for that race but I am notorious for going out too fast so I was adamant about NOT letting myself go faster than that for the first half. Then, I made myself a goal that if I stuck to that pace and felt good at the half way mark I could speed it up.

 I stuck to my plan and had a surprise PR!

That was the first full marathon I ever ran that I didn’t cramp or hit the wall. So, that is now how I approach races  – fuel, out slow.

Disclaimer: 1.We are all different. That is what worked for me. You are not me. You are you. You are probably much cooler and prettier and funnier than me for that matter. Own who you are.

2. I am not fast compared to the majority of racers, but I’m getting faster relative to my other races. I still have a lot of work to do before I BQ. I am NOT an expert on anything except being a redheaded Mexican who loves watermelon. 

PR personal record dance

But I got a lot of questions so… this is how I pace for a marathon: Marathon Pace to PR

Marathon Training – How to Pace Yourself foo

1. Miles 1-10/12 (depending on how I feel) = GO SLOW. I make sure I think “Yep, I can run like this all day.” If it’s any faster than that I slow down.

Or I yell at myself in my head… “You are going too fast a-hole!!! Slow down or you’re going to die today, is that what you want?! You want to die and your cat starve to death in your condo all alone?! You’ll never go to China…”

That usually works.

2. Miles 10/12 – 20 = Check in with myself. Feeling good? Speed it up about 5-20 seconds per mile pace depending on how good.

Keep eating/drinking per plan.

Not feeling good? Consider exit strategies.

3. Miles 20-26.2. Balls out.

Still feeling good?

Yes. –> Then, speed it up.

No. –> Try to hang on to this pace or slow it down depending.

Other options –> Make a deal with the devil. Try not to poop your pants. Don’t cry it because only makes it harder to see the mile markers as they go by and you need that reassurance that it’s almost over.

4. Cross the finish. Swear you’ll never do it again.

5. Drink a margarita or 5. Tell everyone at the bar that you just ran a marathon. Get ‘high fives’. Rest for a week or two.

The end.

IMAG1101 (800x451)

Question: What are you an expert at?

Me: Redhair.Watermelon. Fro-yo.


  1. says

    I always start out too fast! I love how you break down marathon pacing like one of those “create your own ending” stories – perfectly illustrates how pacing is all about underestimating what you’re capable of at the start and then communicating with your body through the miles until your heart and your feet fall into line!

  2. says

    Starting out slower than you want to go is so important! I think nutrition is key and it can take a while to figure out what works for your body. I walk for 20 seconds through every H2O station and make sure I stay hydrated and replace calories because it helps!

  3. says

    No 1 is absolutely crucial, the cardinal rule…else you’ll blow up the race. Which is what I always ended up doing despite what I tell myself – still have a hard time figuring out how to get about this.

  4. says

    I do enjoy participating in marathons, although I can’t run too fast but my participation helps me a lot to feel that I’m also the part of a mega event in the city. I rarely miss a chance to participate in such healthy activities. After all its fun to be with friends and family as thers are doing in the same place.

  5. says

    LOVE your blog! I ran my first ever marathon yesterday and managed (to my amazement and despite hot weather) to run it in 3:52 :-)!! Mostly I put this down to pacing it well and going slower in the first half – I got that advice from the MARCO strategy (which is pretty much the same as what you’ve written) so if you’re a stats freak like me you’ll probably love it – it’ll even tell you what your heart rate is meant to be at different points.

  6. says

    I usually work out a plan based on my training performances and hopefully stick to it. How I start depends on how I feel. if i don’t feel 100% I might start a bit slow and speed it up after the first 5 miles or so. The worst thing I ever did is to feel great over the first 5 to 7 miles and speed up too much too soon, blew up at 21 miles !!!

  7. says

    I am not sure I could ever run 26.1 miles without dying. No joke! I love your tips though, I honestly think that I always start out much too quickly and pacing would help me tremendously!!

  8. says

    So true that everyone is different and needs to do what works for them..I am an expert in many fine areas- Red Mango yogurt parfait making, peanut butter, cookies and chocolate cake. I have quite the distinctive dessert palate.

  9. says

    I’m an expert at nothing haha. I PR’d by 6 minutes in the 10K on Saturday and had similar strategies, which I developed as running the race. I ran it slow and by feel, just let my legs do the work and tried to keep my mind quiet and focused. Congrats again on the amazing PR!!!!!

  10. says

    The tips what you have given are simply fabulous. Anyone can try these tips and enjoy the whole marathon. So no need to be stress out for any marathon running.

  11. Jen says

    def did not follow #1 at my marathon on Sunday! I was running for a charity thought so I wasn’t really worried about my time too much.

    I’m an expert at redhair and refueling with margaritas.

  12. says

    I find myself going out too fast always too – it’s just that adrenaline, man! Gets me going! That’s something I’d really like to work on, is slowing myself down and allowing myself to get in a groove. Easier said than done, right?

    Congrats again on a super PR!

  13. Tara says

    I am a expert at Pizza…and an expert at letting that little devil into my head when I run. You know, the one that tells you ‘ah, just stop, you dont need to run 10miles to train today. You are not feeling this, just turn around. You suck at running, why are you doing this?’ Ya. Him. Expert.

  14. Julia says

    I ran my first half this weekend – I didn’t know what to expect but I knew that I had to start out slow. The first 3 miles were hard (mentally) but then I felt great, walked through water stations (this helped me SO MUCH) and as a result, each mile was faster than my previous mile. My first mile was about 10:20 and my last mile was 9:12! Which is pretty fast for me, haha. Thanks for inspiring me to run a half! I don’t know if I’d ever be able to run a full but I’m hooked on the half now :) already have plans to sign up for more!

  15. says

    This post is helpful. I am about 12 days out from my first full marathon. I know what I want my average pace to be but figuring out how to pace the entire thing is beyond me right now. I am going to try not to be too attached to the ol’ watch and listen to my body. That has served me well in other races in the past, hopefully it will work for this distance as well.

  16. says

    These are really great tips for when I run my first marathon in October. For half marathons, I go out really fast, and end up getting positive splits in the second half, but it works since it’s a shorter distance. I really have to change my race strategy if I’m going to finish a full marathon without bonking hard.

    I’m an expert at eating 😉 I’m so good at it, I’m thinking of going pro.

  17. says

    You have PR’s coming out of your ever shrinking booty! You’re killing it!

    Thanks for sharing your tips, I’m considering my first marathon towards the end of the year and this will be so helpful!

  18. says

    These are great tips! I am working at being an expert at running playlists, and this also helps with my pacing. I run half marathons and make sure that the first 20-30 min of music are songs that help me to run at an easy pace (think “more guitar”) because starting out too fast is a big problem for me. After that, I let loose with the best that pop and hip hop have to offer, and I make sure that the last 10-15 minutes are songs I couldn’t possibly stop during! (because I wouldn’t want to disappoint Usher)

  19. says

    This is, at the same time, both the most hilarious and most effective guide to pacing that I’ve read. Like, ever.

    Another three cheers for an amazing post, Monica (in which you managed to talk about watermelon, poop, and crying – quite an impressive feat!)

  20. Laura says

    Thanks for the awesome tips. I have yet to run a full marathon (I’m scared!!) but I’m hoping to bite the bullet in 2014. So my question for you is – what kind of pace do you do on your long training runs?

    Thanks and keep up the great work, you’re very inspiring!!

  21. Sarah G. says

    Love these pacing tips! My biggest fear about my first full mary this fall is pacing (okay, that and pooping my pants.)

    I am an expert at obsessively making lists for things. Sometimes I add a few extra easy tasks on there just to get the satisfaction of crossing them off.

  22. says

    GREAT POST! I want to PR in a marathon at the end of this month. I’ll be following your little break-down of pacing (though I am known to go out too fast in the beginning, too).

  23. says

    I really agree with your pacing strategy, although I’ve only run 2 marathons, so I’m totally not an expert. During the first half of the marathon for both races, my pace felt almost effortless, but they have to be or you’ll be walking those last 6 miles. I have PureFlows in the same color as your top photo (although I swapped in the neon yellow laces)–love those shoes!

  24. says

    I have only run one half marathon, so nothing compared to most runners, but I have such a hard time running fast. I like your idea of starting out slow and then building your pace, my runs usually started to slow down as I got tired.

  25. says

    I love everything about this post. I especially love knowing that people walk in marathons! I’m so afraid to walk while running, mainly because I only run 5ks right now and if I walk I might as well quit. But knowing I wouldn’t be totally lame to walk in a bigger race = awesome!

    Love the pics btw.

    Expert at winning arguments, over-thinkiing, and curly hair

  26. MartinaNYC says

    Monica do you happen to have a “Training for a HALF Marathon–How to Pace Yourself foo” post? I have my first half in 11 days and I know you’re the half-marathons’ queen… please, I’m so nervous!!!

  27. Lucy says

    Thanks for the great post! Congrats on the PR!
    I’ve hit the wall a few times and for me, sleep the prior week is important as well as fueling and hydrating. Since I’m a sweaty girl, I’ve tried eating pickles and drinking pickle juice a few days prior to the race.

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