Strategy for a Half Marathon

I probably should be packing my gear for the trip to Vienna right now, instead I’ve been pondering my race strategy for Sunday’s Half Marathon.

I usually try not to talk too much about my goals before a race, because I quite often set very ambitious goals which leads to people either not believing me in the first place or mocking me if I fail to attain the goal. I’ve long since decided to only give vague answers to the question “What time to you want to run on race XY?” and then surprise people (and quite often myself) while still leaving room for bad results.

So on Sunday I will debut in running a Half Marathon in Vienna. Up until two weeks ago I had a very solid training, mostly nailing my workouts of the training plan. Being the ambitious amateur runner, I trained for a sub 1h 40min time (that’s an average of 4’44” per km or 7’28” per mile). So there you have it, my goal is to run a sub 1h 40min Half Marathon.1

When life gives you lemons

As I’ve mentioned before, on my last real long run I strained a muscle in my right leg. Being all the “it’s going to be o.k.” guy, I went for two more training sessions – mostly ignoring the pain – before giving in and resting. I even saw a physiotherapist three times in the last 10 days. Needless to say that this unplanned rest had a negative effect – if only in my head. As of today I’m still far from being pain free, but I will give it my best on Sunday. But how should I run?

The Strategy

It is obvious that I will not be able to run 4’44”/km right from the start. There are over 30000 people registered for the race, so even if the start corrals are really well organized, there will be a lot of runners out on the course. That’s why I have decided to break the race into 5km blocks.

Start – 5km: 26’15”

I noticed during today’s run that I need quite some time to warm up. Since I don’t know whether there will be enough room in the corrals / start area to properly warm up, this section will have to double as a warm-up.

I want to aim for a 5’15” pace for the first 5 kilometers. This will leave me with a debt of 2’30” on my goal time, but will hopefully allow me to get into a good rhythm while at the same time not having to dodge a lot of other runners.

5km – 10km: 50’00”

Depending on how my legs feel I will see to accelerate to a sub 5’ pace for this section, ideally already hitting the goal pace of 4’44”. By kilometer 5 the crowds on the course should have lightened up to be able to run a faster pace.

10km – 15km: 1h 13’40”

During this section I will pass the 1 hour mark. Ideally I will have run between 12 and 13km after one hour. The plan is to evaluate my legs and fitness at that time in order to see if I can accelerate some more (mind you, more than half of the distance is already done by then) or if I can at least hold my goal pace and accept the 2’30” debt from the start.

15km – Finish: 1h 36’35”

If my thigh doesn’t bother me too much (probably courtesy of enough adrenaline) I will be in All-In mode for this section. Fighting to either hold the pace or accelerate and make up for the lost time from the beginning of the race.

Well, it’s my first race longer than 10km (where the only strategy is: run as fast as you can from the beginning), so I’m curious how this plays out. I might be pooped after 10km (then what?), but I’m pretty sure I won’t have anything left in the tank after 21km. Wish me luck!

Have you run a Half Marathon already? What was your strategy, and did it work out? Leave a comment, I’m curious!

  1. And I will totally use the next section as an excuse if I don’t hit that goal.