Marathon Training Tip #13: Finding Your Marathon “Race Pace”

Finding Your Marathon “Race Pace”

At this point in training, it’s natural to eye the calendar – looking ahead (with a mixture of excitement, anxiety and confidence) to October 8 when we toe the line for the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Our perspectives (and our goals) have likely changed since Memorial Day weekend when we ‘officially’ embarked on our training ‘journey’. We have either improved beyond what we thought possible at the beginning of the season, or we may have fallen a little ‘off track.’  Either way, now is a good time to reassess our goals and to find our marathon “race pace.”

I raise this point now, because many of you have asked how to set a realistic time goal for Marathon Day.

Some of the questions – “What is the difference between my long run ‘training pace’ on Saturdays and how fast I can (or should) run on Marathon Day?”

“How do I determine how fast I should be running on Marathon Day?”

“How do I run the marathon faster than my Saturday ‘LSD’ (long slow distance) pace if I haven’t been running faster all season?”

For many of you who are running your first marathon, and especially those who are fairly new to running, the long, slow distance pace of the Saturday long runs IS your marathon pace.  You are training your body by building the endurance to run 26.2 miles on Marathon Day.  Your efforts will be rewarded with a finisher’s medal on October 8 (and with a very satisfied smile on your face)… and there is no pressure (and no need) to run any faster on race day.  Enjoy the experience and savor the accomplishment.

For others, the goal of achieving a particular finish time is beginning to come into focus. Review the goals set at the start of the season.  Ask yourself, “Are those goals still realistic?  Can I run faster?  Should I run faster?  Or do I need to adjust my goals to a slower race pace in order to finish safely?”

So how DO you determine a realistic Marathon Pace?

Our race day predicted finish time should be a realistic and achievable goal. Use objective criteria, based upon the results of your training to date, and preferably, race finish times (from other ‘events’ in which you may have participated) throughout the summer.  Look at recent race results; compare those finish times and distances to predictors for the marathon distance.  One such predictor calculator can be found at:

In addition to these predictor calculations, check your training logs to see how you felt at the end of the long runs this season. If you have consistently noted you could have run longer at the LSD pace, coupled with the predictor, you are in good standing.  If, however, your training logs noted that you often struggled to maintain the pace during the training runs, and felt completely spent at the end of the training run, that is an indication that the training runs have been a bit too aggressive.

You’ll note that the pace per mile for these ‘predicted’ marathon finish times will likely be faster than the LSD pace of Saturday long runs—especially for ‘veteran’ or improving marathon runners. For these runners, your speed component is developed on the shorter runs during the week—specifically ‘tempo runs’ and ‘speed workouts’.  These shorter workouts are paced faster than our goal marathon pace to improve our bodies’ endurance and speed.  And since these are shorter than the long weekend runs, we are able to recover more quickly from these more intense workouts.

For veteran and improving marathon runners, the pace for marathon day should be set somewhere between your LSD runs and the speed/tempo runs–generally, between :45 to 1-minute quicker per mile than your weekend ‘LSD’ runs. (But again, for ‘first time’ marathon runners, your Saturday ‘LSD’ training pace IS your “race pace”.)

Examining our current physical condition and “preparedness” will help us establish a realistic and achievable race goal, and the correct race pace. If you have run races (any distance from a 5K to a half marathon can be a good marker) during the summer, use the predictor to set realistic ranges for race day.  If you have not run any races, run a few midweek workouts at an established distance (for example, 5K or 10K distance) and check the predictor.

Once a Marathon Pace is identified, we’ll have the opportunity in the remaining weeks to practice running a portion of our long Saturday runs at Marathon Pace as another check on how realistic and achievable we’ve set our goal

Examining fitness levels and reviewing objective criteria helps to establish race day goals which are specific, measureable and realistic.

And achievable.

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®

On Becoming A Better You

Many of you are now running your longest runs ever (or your longest runs in a very long time), and you’re being reminded of the fact that “the hardest part of running a marathon is NOT running the marathon—the hardest part of running a marathon is TRAINING to run the marathon.

That said, these coming weeks are the real “discipline weeks” of marathon training:

… those weeks when the reality of October 8 is seriously beginning to plant itself in your mind, that in just 7 weeks you are going to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!

… those weeks when you stay in on Friday nights because you really, really need to be in bed before 9:30 PM.

… and the weeks when you’re most likely to you say to yourself, “Tell me again why I’m doing this?”

But then, you DO remember why you’re doing this.

You’re doing this because being a runner is now a part of who you are, and all that you’ve become.

You’re doing this because of the commitment you’ve made to your own health and fitness; and, as a Team RMHC runner, because of the commitment you’ve made to support the health and well-being of the children and families served by Ronald McDonald House Charities.

And you’re doing this because running makes you a better you… an idea best reflected in this quote from writer, mother and runner Kristin Armstrong: “I am not a ‘good runner’ because I am me. I am a ‘good me’ because I am a runner.”

(I LOVE that!)

If running these really long ‘long runs’ seems like a challenge, you’re not alone.

(What the heck… you’re running 16, 18 or 20 miles! OF COURSE IT’S A CHALLENGE!)

But (again), remember… you’re NOT alone.

Look around you on the path, streets or sidewalks that you train on–and take strength from all the other runners who are doing exactly what you’re doing.

Look to your family, friends and colleagues and take strength from their good wishes and prayers; and from the donations they’re making to support you, and to support Ronald McDonald House Charities!

And on Marathon Day… look in total (jaw-dropping) awe at the 40,000-plus runners at your side, and the nearly 1,800,000 spectators who show up to encourage and cheer you on to the ‘FINISH.’


Many thanks to each of you for ALL that you’re doing (every day, and every week) to train and run and fundraise(!) to support Ronald McDonald House Charities.

You’re THE BEST!

Train safe. Run strong.

Finish proud.



FUNdraising Pages

Make the best use of your fundraising pages – they are key to hitting your goals!

Personal Fundraising Pages_Tips 2017

Personal Fundraising Pages

You created a fundraising page when you registered with Team RMHC – let’s be sure you have customized it to be a powerful tool you can use to raise $$$.

Did you know that fundraisers who customize their page raise on average 20% more than those who don’t? That’s right! Make it personal and raise more – here are some tips below!

To login to your Participant Center, go to (Login is at upper right of the page)

 Customize it! Click “Set up your Personal Page”


 Change the name to show it is YOU!2_name

 Add YOUR story – Why are you running for RMHC? The more personal the better – if you are passionate about why you are running, donors will be passionate about giving.

 Add photos –add your own “personality” to your page – it WILL increase your donations! Take a selfie while out on your next long run and post it here – show others the miles you are putting in.

 Create a Short URL, click the “Personal Page” tab – this will make it easier to share via email & social media too! 3_tabs

Then customize your url.


 SHARE SHARE SHARE! If you don’t ask, you won’t receive! So start kicking asks and taking names, you’ve got this!


Marathon Training Tip #12: Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Putting Your Best Foot Forward — Shoes… trying, buying (and drying)

The most basic pieces of running gear marathoners use – and the most often overlooked while training – are our shoes. They’ve been with us every step of the way since Memorial Day—and they bear the brunt of all those training miles.

As we are now in the ‘dog days of training’, this is an appropriate time to assess the condition of our running shoes. The expected useful lifetime of a pair of running shoes is between 300 – 500 miles.  The variance depends on our body type, running style (biomechanics) and how we care for our shoes.  Even if our running shoes were brand new in the first week of training, this is a good time to think about getting a new pair of shoes and begin “breaking them in” for Marathon Day.

We can’t always tell how worn the shoes are merely by looking at them. If the shoes have been worn for indoor running or if you have not run through rain or puddles, the shoes may look to be in good shape.  If you’ve run through puddles and mud, the shoes may look worse than they are—but regardless of how they may appear, after a few hundred miles the midsole of the shoes typically breaks down, and the important protection shoes offer to the feet (indeed, to our entire body on landing) diminishes, leading to aches, soreness or even pain.

Some telltale signs that we need new shoes – little aches and pains in the knees, hips, shins and/or ankles.

Even if you’ve not yet experienced any soreness, shoes still may need to be replaced. Look at the opening of the shoe.  See if the shoe has “fishmouth,” where the opening is flexible and looks like a fish opening its mouth when you apply a little bit of pressure on the back or the side of the opening.

Another checkpoint is the “landing spot” of the shoe. If you typically land on your heel or the rear of the foot, check the heel wear to see if the heel is noticeably worn in one spot. If that’s the case and you have over 250 – 300 miles on the shoes, it’s time for new ones.  If you are a ‘toe runner’ – check the landing pads under the balls of your feet to see if the treads are worn. And if you are a ‘mid-foot’ striker, look for uneven wearing of the treads compared to the rest of the sole.

In preparation for race day, our shoes should have between 50 – 100 miles on them (with 75 being an ideal target). This distance allows for a breaking in of the shoes on some long runs, but not too many miles.  Look ahead at your schedule; determine how many more miles you’ll log before race day.  Count backwards to be sure your ‘marathon day’ shoes won’t have too many miles on them.

If the shoes you’re currently wearing still have some miles left on them, you don’t have to throw them out or stop running in them completely. Usually, I rotate two or three pairs of shoes while training for a marathon. This allows me to switch shoes, one for long runs and one for shorter runs in preparation for marathon day–with the new shoes used for short runs, and a few weeks later, for long runs (and the old long run shoes are relegated to shorter runs for a while).

The process of breaking in shoes is helped if you buy the same brand and model shoe you’ve been wearing and in which you’ve been running. If you feel the need to switch brands or models, now is the time to do that– allowing ample time for your feet to adjust. (Although if what you are wearing now ‘works’ for you, please don’t try a new brand or model so close to the marathon.)

Finally, when buying shoes – purchase shoes in the evening or after a run. Our feet may be slightly bigger then and the shoes will be fit better for running.

Bonus tip – drying wet shoes

When our shoes get wet, it is important to dry them thoroughly before running again (another reason for a back-up pair for rotation, by the way). To dry your shoes, DO NOT THROW THEM IN THE WASHER OR THE DRYER.  Instead, remove the laces and the sole inserts and dry them separately.  Stuff newspaper into the toes of the shoes to absorb moisture.  Position the shoes against a wall, heels up (toes down); and replace wet/damp newspaper after 3-4 hours. This will expedite the drying process.

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®


The Heart of the Matter

It’s mid-August… that time on the calendar when you have now passed the ‘half way’ point of your training, and are now ‘heading home’ to Marathon Day.


For some, this past weekend was a ‘cut back’ week; others were running 14, 16 or 18-milers (happy “Sweet Sixteen” by the way, if that’s what you ran!)… and with the more moderate temperatures here in Chicago, it seemed like everyone was “out there.”

Running. Training.

Challenging themselves to do their best, and be their best.

So far, our focus has been mostly about the physical side of training… building endurance, learning about ‘proper running form’ and understanding the important role that stretching, hydration and good nutrition play in helping you be your best.

AND you’ve learned that even after you’ve gained confidence in your physical training, there’s still a lot more to learn in terms of mental preparedness.

But there’s a third element to successfully running a marathon.


Heart’ is that spirit inside each of us that “gets us out the door” to run on weekdays—especially when we really don’t have the time or energy to run; and it’s what drives us to get up at 5:00 AM (in the MORNING!) (ON A SATURDAY!!!) to run what have now become ‘crazylong’ long runs. (And yes, at this point “crazylong” is one word.)

And it is heart that will help you run 26.2 miles on October 8.

On more occasions that I care to admit, when either my physical and/or mental fitness have somehow “broken down”—it is that spirit within me (and my faith) that have given me the strength to run the next mile.

And the mile after that.

BODY, MIND and HEART… throughout the coming weeks, we’ll continue to talk about the role that each of these elements play in marathon training—but for now, know (with certainty!) that if you’ve made an honest commitment to your training schedule, that you will always, always have at least one of these three to take you across the ‘FINISH.’

Keep training safe.

And (of course) keep running strong.




Marathon Training Tip #11 – Overtraining

OVERTRAINING—More is NOT Always Better

Wow, have you looked at the mileage in training? Our long runs are getting longer – this week may be the farthest distance you have ever run (or ever thought of running).  And for veteran marathoners, the increasing mileage brings new challenges in fitness and performance.

Most of us are aware of changes that take place throughout our training. Distances which once seemed daunting (if not impossible) seem manageable.  And even if we’ve previously run long distances, our fitness has improved to the point where we are capable of running quicker than we did 10 weeks ago AND feeling stronger at the completion of the run.  We may have lost weight, or noticed our clothes fit better; friends and family may have commented on how good we look.

And about now you may be saying to yourself, “Just imagine, with the progress I’ve made in ten or twelve weeks, what will happen if I run even longer and faster? Won’t the extra miles or a faster training pace add to my performance?  If 25 miles this week is good, wouldn’t 35 be better?  Can I run a minute per mile faster this week?”  It’s about this time that the competitive juices begin to stir the soul–whether competing against neighbors and friends, or against our internal self and the runner we want to be (or believe we are).

Unfortunately, more is not always better.  While there may have been tremendous improvement in our fitness and performance since the start of our marathon training, more miles and a faster pace at this point in training is more likely to lead to poorer performance and a higher risk of injury instead of improved performance.

Regardless of our running history, unfettered increase in intensity or mileage at this point in the training cycle is usually counter-productive. It is the law of diminishing returns—with too great an increase in intensity or mileage, our bodies may exhibit signs of overtraining – pushing our body past improvement and towards injury or burnout.

Each of us reacts differently to overtraining, but there are some key markers to monitor. The most common marker is an increase in our resting heart rate.  I recommend measuring resting heart rate at the beginning of the season; but if you haven’t yet measured your resting heart rate, it is not too late to determine a baseline.

Take a measurement of heart rate upon awakening and before getting out of bed. If you train with a heart rate monitor, wear it to bed and check the reading first thing in the morning.  If you do not have a heart rate monitor, take your pulse by placing your fingers on your carotid artery (at the base of the neck), count the number of beats for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to determine the number of beats per minute.  Measure resting heart rate for 3 – 5 days and take an average of the count.  As we train and become fitter, our resting heart rate will drop and at some point level off.  With stress through overtraining, our resting heart rate will usually increase.  An increase of 3 – 4 beats per minute is a significant change and indicates the need to reduce training temporarily.

In addition to resting heart rate, other signs of overtraining include wide variances in behavior. Some people sleep a lot more, others so much less you may seem to have insomnia.  For other folks, it could be a significant increase in food consumption or not eating at all.  Mood swings to either extreme are other markers.  In all cases, it is deviation from our normal behavior which is the indicator.

Of special note is when we miss some of our training, especially long training runs. Many runners want to make up for ‘lost runs’ only to overload their system.  If you have missed some training, review Weekly Tip #3 (‘Missed Workouts’).  Be cautious of overdoing training in these circumstances.

Even with increasing mileage, we should recover from a long run by the second day. If soreness persists beyond the second day after a long run, heed the warning signs.  A minor injury now, left untreated, usually leads to a more serious injury down the road.  Better to take care of an injury at the outset than to ‘push through’ the injury, hoping it gets better, despite more intense training.

Rest days and cross-training days are critical counterbalances to overtraining. Rest days allow for more recovery for tired muscles.  Cross-training continues to build aerobic fitness without the jarring stress to our joints (ankles, knees and hips).  Adding extra miles or increasing our pace (without adequate rest and recovery) leads to negative performance; or it becomes too difficult to maintain the same pace on a 12 or 14 mile run as you had on a 6 or 8 miler—and race times plateau or get slower and we feel abnormally fatigued or frustrated.

If you are exhibiting signs of overtraining, cut back on the intensity and duration of training. Even a few days off will help the body return to normal, and it will be safe to return to training.

Ignoring the signs of overtraining invites a higher risk of injury.

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®

Oh, Joy

What a great weekend here in Chicago, with slightly cooler temps, and lower humidity and tons of runners out on the paths… so many appearing so pleased (and proud!) to be “out there” running.

Which is what this whole marathon training experience should be all about!

Okay, let’s be honest. There’s a really good chance that you’re not going to win the marathon (gasp!)… so you might as well ‘enjoy the heck’ out of your training, and enjoy anticipating the (unimaginable) thrill of “running Chicago” on Marathon Day.

So whether you’re training for your “first ever” marathon or your “tenth ever”… just have a GREAT time.

And I’m not talking about the ‘time’ on your watch… I’m talking about having a “great time.” Period.

Marathoners are, by nature, a rather competitive bunch. (Or haven’t you noticed?)

Which is a good thing, as it keeps us always moving forward and always striving to achieve our ‘next goal.’ But at the same time, being (too) competitive can be a not good thing… as we get SO serious about our pace and our plan and our times that we often lose-out on the joy of “just running.”

We’re now starting the really long ‘long-run’ stage of marathon training—all the more reason to run with your shoulders back and your head up, and with a smile on your face (and in your heart!) because of what you’re going to achieve on October 8…

                         YOU’RE GOING TO RUN THE CHICAGO MARATHON!

Until then, my wish for each of you is that you continue to have a safe (read: “injury-free”) training experience; and that on Marathon Day you’re standing at the ‘START’ with a confident and determined spirit, and with an able and healthy body.

But mostly (mostly!)…  I wish you the joy of “just running.”

Train safe. Run strong.

Finish proud.