In my last post on the McMillan Running calculator I didn’t discuss some very important points about the calculator and training paces.
One of these points is why I used a goal pace time rather than a current race time.
Two readers comments had some excellent points that I wanted to talk about. Hopefully this post will help you figure out what way you should use the McMillan Calculator that will work best for you and also help you figure out a realistic goal time for your upcoming marathon or race of another distance.
Often when deciding what goal you should have for a marathon it’s tempting to pick a number out of thin air. I did it many times before I learned how to train properly and how to come up with goal paces during training and during races. For my first marathon my goal time was to beat Oprah’s first marathon time – if she could run a marathon in 4:20 something I reasoned I could. I ended up running a 4:20 but it doesn’t always work out that way. If you set yourself up with a goal time that is too aggressive you are setting yourself up for possible disappointment or worse – injuries from over training at a pace your body is not capable of sustaining.
The reason I plug in my goal time into McMillan’s calculator rather than a current race times is because I find that I am better at longer distances than McMillan predicts. My shorter race distances are rarely as fast as they need to be in order for McMillan to predict my marathon time.
Take for instance my marathon PR of 3:11.
I should be able to run these race times:
- mile: 5:39
- 5K: 19:37
- 10K: 40:45
- 10 miler: 1:08:17
- 1/2 marathon: 1:30:40
The only race time I’ve beat out of those predicted race times is the 10K time – 40:23 was my PR which I ran shortly after running a 3:13 in 2011. Another fact to note is that I haven’t been racing shorter distances lately so I don’t typically have a short race time to plug into the predictor. I don’t generally think that training runs are good predictors to plug in – because more likely than not you are going to run faster in a race than on a training run of the same distance. That being said if all you have is a time trial run to use – you can certainly plug it in to get a general idea of what you could do.
Because of both of these reasons I plug in my marathon goal time. When I do this – I look at the training paces and see if I am anywhere in range on all the different types of runs.
For my training pace goal of 2:59 with the goal of 3:05 in the marathon my paces this summer will be:
- Recovery Jogs
- 8:23 – 8:53
- Long Runs
- 7:23 – 8:23
- Easy Runs
- 7:23 – 7:53
- Tempo Runs
- 6:15 – 6:31
- Tempo Intervals
- 6:10 – 6:23
I can hit the slow end of all of these pace ranges now which means that my goal is realistic with proper training. Could I run a 3:05 or faster right now simply because I am in the slower end of the training zones? Probably not. With proper training I would expect to see myself hitting the middle end of the range during the middle of my training cycle and the lower/faster end by the end of the cycle.
I think it’s important to note that throughout the training cycle you should be looking at your paces and determining if your goal is still realistic. Life can get in the way of running, or an injury might sideline you for a little. This may mean that a goal that seemed good at the beginning of the summer is no longer and you may need to adjust to a slower more realistic goal.
Training too fast for what you are capable of that cycle does not do you any favors. In fact most often it’s is the opposite – you will arrive to the start line – burnt out and likely won’t hit your goal.
It is also a good idea if you can fit in races during training to plug those into the calculator and see if the races align with what your goals are. Keeping in mind what your strongest distances is. If you are always faster at shorter distances and can rarely hit what the predicted marathon time is based on your 5K performance – the keep that in mind when picking a goal. If you find that your shorter distances don’t predict as fast as you can run in the marathon – also keep that in mind.
There is no one fool proof way to coming up with a realistic goal time for the marathon. You need to listen to your body – analyze yourself and your strengths and be in tune with what you are doing throughout the training cycle.
Also remember as Celia pointed out that predicted paces also rely on the fact that you are doing the training. If you don’t train properly for a marathon it doesn’t matter what your 5K or 10K time predicts – it’s going to be a rough 26.2 miles for you that ultimately will most likely not end in the goal time you thought it would.
Do the work. Respect the distance. Listen to your body.
Questions? Thoughts? How do you come up with your goal times for your races?