It's not easy to pace yourself. From "going out too fast" to "hitting the wall," the risks of a bad strategy loom large. Our SmartPace bands can help you create a mile-by-mile plan for race day.
Read more below about some key points in planning your pace strategy, and use our SmartPace calculator at the right to see your pace in action.
We always hear about the need to run at an "even pace", but we have yet to do it. Most mortals just don’t run their goal pace at mile 24.
Many coaches advocate even pacing, mainly based on studies of elite runners setting world records. Some push the “negative split” – running the second half faster than the first, while others push the reverse. At least they all agree going out too fast ends badly.
We think an “even effort” pace is the best. We use a “Smart Pacing” strategy that combines a graduated slower start, a strong middle and a cushion at the end. You always hear “don’t try something new on race day.” You don’t start your Saturday long run at goal pace, instead you usually take a few miles to warm up and run efficiently. The same strategy makes sense on race day.
Warming up helps prepare your body to burn energy more efficiently. If you hit the gas pedal too quickly, you risk burning valuable energy stores you will need later to keep from hitting the wall.
Our Warm Up strategy starts out 60 seconds slow the first mile, 30 seconds for mile 2, 15 seconds for mile 3, goal pace for mile 4, and then settles into a faster than average pace until mile 20 to make up time and build a modest cushion for the end.
The Modified Warm Up is similar, but starts out only 30 seconds slower, and leaves less time to make up. View it in action with our calculator at the right.
Our Negative Split is closer to even pace, but makes the second half a bit faster than the first.
Local marathons have adopted our Warm Up strategy as their offical pacing strategy (read more on their pace strategy here, or visit Coach Eladio Valdez from The Runners Edge.
Our SmartPace bands can be modified to use one of our recommended strategies, or you can customize them to reflect your own.
For each course, we carefully review the elevation and make adjustments for the terrain. We will consider how big the hils are, how steep, whether a mile is all up, all down or a mixture, and whether the hills early or late. It is a mix of art and science.
Typically, we suggest 5-10 seconds for a 50-75ft climb over a mile and 10-30 seconds for 100-150 feet. We start with the uphills and then find where to make time back up - starting with obvious downhills.
We have a large catalog of courses we already reviewed, and will add any new course for your order!
A word of caution: elevation charts are not equal. Some are unreliable - misplacing hill or distorting their size. Our suggested changes are only as good as the charts.
After you complete your order, you will receive a preview to check out our proposed changes and you can them make your custom changes.
You can start with one of our pace strategies and modify it to fit our plan, or start from scratch and create your own, mile by mile.
During our order process, as you select pace times and stategies for your three finish times, your can choose a "custom" strategy to launch our custom band creator.
You can also make adjustments to your band after we send you a preview with the course adjustments.
See how it works with our custom calculator now.
Our SmartPace bands have 3 columns - MILE: the current mile; PACE: the planned pace/total time for that mile and TOTAL: the total elapsed time when you hit that mile.
Our online preview of your bands also shows the strategy and course changes for each mile, but those don't get printed.
If you are using a GPS or Nike+, the key data points to watch are the LAP PACE, the TOTAL TIME, and the LAP TIME.
The PACE column will tell you your plan for that mile. If you have a Garmin or other pace watch, try to keep your LAP PACE near this speed (slower on the ups and faster on the downs). You should hit the next mile marker, with your LAP TIME being the same as this pace. If the mile is rolling hills, take it easy going up and push it on the downs - run an even effort - don't worry about keeping the entire mile the same pace.
Each mile, we suggest checking the CHRONO on the pace band vs. your watch TOTAL TIME. Keeping within 15-20 seconds is ideal (better fast than slow).
Don't get greedy, though. Unless you are sure of your training, it is usually a bad idea to "bank" some extra time early on. Chances are you are using precious energy you will need later, and risk losing far more than you gain. Pick a strategy in advance and trust yourself. You should feel so good in the first half that you could "run all day," but that doesn't mean you should speed up.
Not sure about which time to pick for your goals? We usually have A, B and C goals, depending on the weather and how the day feels. They are usually about 5 minutes apart.
If you need help choosing a goal time, check out our at our race predictor chart.