Runner’s Tool: How to Predict Race Pace

Ever look at your training schedule, notice your workout calls for “marathon pace” miles, “How the heck am I supposed to know what my marathon pace is when I haven’t run my marathon yet?!”  If so, you are definitely not alone. Figuring out realistic race goals is tough. Luckily, a well-known running coach, Greg McMillan, came up with a nifty little calculator called the “McMillan Running Calculator” that gives you a great running pace prediction.

It’s very simple to use. Simply input a recent race result, along with some optional information about yourself.  Since I am using this tool to calculate my paces for marathon training, I went with my most recent half marathon time, since that is the longest race I have ran so far this season.

And, viola! The calculator will spit out your running pace predictions. However, something to keep in mind is the calculator assumes you are running very high mileage, and does not account for much fading.  Thus, if you are going from a shorter race distance, to a longer distance, I like to think the running calculator gives you the best case scenario based on your current fitness, rather than a hard fast prediction.

Even more useful than the running pace predictions, I think, is the training paces the calculator provides.  A very common mistake for most runners (myself totally included) is going too hard on easy days, and going too easy on hard days. The calculator helps gives you a good general guideline.

As amazing as this tool is, there are a few limitations.  First off, be honest with your race result.  For example, my half marathon time was from the New York City Half back in March. The course only had a few moderate hills in the early miles and, the weather was cool and dry. It would be unrealistic for me to use this half marathon time to try and predict, let’s say, a very warm and hilly full marathon.  Also keep in mind these training paces are only a guide.  It is also unrealistic for me to expect to be able to hold a 8:45 min/mile (a faster tempo pace for me) on an 85 degree day for very long. In extreme weather temperatures, I find it better to train by effort/heart rate. Finally, keep in mind the calculator’s limitations. The calculator can’t predict a crowded course, harsh weather conditions, or just plain, race day magic.

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