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Pacing Your Marathon

September 23, 2013

By Tony J. Stafford II, Professional Pacer

Successfully pacing a marathon is essential to having a great race. Though there are sometimes uncontrollable factors (e.g., weather), by always having a plan in place AND sticking to that plan, you will alleviate some (if not most) of the pre-race anxiety for the marathon distance.Stafford042


1. Know your ultimate goal marathon time, BUT ultimately know your splits—whether they be at each mile marker, every 5K or the halfway point. As a veteran pace leader, I still print out a “Marathon Pace Wristband” to ensure I’m hitting each mile close to the ‘target’ marathon time. Also, I DO NOT use a Garmin; I use my Timex watch so my body ‘feels’ whatever pace group I am leading.

2. Err on the side of taking the first half of the marathon slower. It is harder to ‘bank time’ rather than save energy for the later stages of the race. Runners get caught up in trying to be 10 OR MORE seconds faster each mile than their ‘target’ marathon time; in most cases, this results in burning all the energy and fuel toward the last 10K of a marathon.

3. Don’t be afraid to “power walk” through aid stations. I usually employ this strategy toward the second half of the marathon, when there is not as big of a crowd AND a runner may need a little break from the monotony of running 26.2 miles. I tell my pace group to grab water OR Gatorade, “get out of the way,” and walk while drinking. I usually suggest NO MORE than a 10-second ‘walk’ through every other second-half aid station.

4. Stay calm and controlled. If my pace group misses a split, I tell them not to worry; concentrate on breaking the distance down in small segments.

5. Run in a pace group. Research and find out about your pace leader. Pace leaders are professionals who selfishly help other athletes hit those goals!


To date, I have paced more than 40 marathons throughout the United States and Canada. The majority of marathon times that I pace are 3:05:00 (Boston Qualifier for Men 18-34) and 3:10:00 (Boston Qualifier for Men 35-39). This year I will be pacing the 2014 Chicago Marathon for the fifth time as the 3:05:00 pace time. After that comes the Richmond Marathon.


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