Marathon grp ladiesProper pacing is important in any race but especially in a marathon. One of the biggest mistakes that newbie marathoners make is not pacing properly throughout the race. The marathon doesn’t become a race until the last 5-6 miles. Most runners can maintain a reasonable marathon pace for the first 20-21 miles, but as veteran marathoners know, the real race begins at mile 20.

When runners fail to achieve their marathon goals, pacing the last 5-6 miles are usually to blame. You can lose much more in the first few miles of a long distance race than you can gain. In order to reach the final miles with enough energy in your legs to cross the finish line, you need to relax and settle into a rhythm for the first 20 miles.

Smart marathoners know that starting off slightly slower and keeping a lower HR will help conserve energy over the long haul. You can slowly build your effort into your race pace toward the end of the race by not doing anything crazy early on like repeatedly surging fast then slowing down. Poor pacing and needless surging burns up energy needed to cover the entire race distance. Knowing the marathon will get hard on its own, there’s no need to make things more complicated by burning up all your energy in the first to middle of the race.

Focusing on early proper pacing and a lower heart rate allows your body handle the critical fluid and calories that will help you through the latter stages of the race. When your body begins to hurt around mile 20, wrap her head around “just” doing a 10K. Thanks to early proper pacing, the mental strength gained and energy conserved will boost your motivation and enhance your focus since you are now passing lots of other runners who previously cruised ahead of you.    

Regardless of your speed or experience, you can have a great race if you execute well.  Executing a race day pacing strategy helps to keep you on track to meet your race goals. When a race is executed well with proper pacing, the ability to run the final miles is a combination of your physical strength and your mental fitness to believe anything is possible.


 Sherry Shelton is a full time professional coach and trainer with over two decades of experience in the health, fitness and endurance sports coaching industry.  Sherry is licensed USA Triathlon Coach, USA Cycling Coach, USA Track & Field Coach and a nationally certified Personal Trainer. She is Head Coach and Founder of Train Smart Coaching located in North GA. Sherry coaches athletes of all fitness levels and has been racing competitively for over two decades. Visit for more information or email