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How to Pace A Half Marathon Using Only Your Thoughts and Feelings

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

Run the first 7 miles (12km) like it’s nothing. Of course, you’ll be keeping a good pace and not jogging along but it should not ‘hurt’. Don’t race people, run with a group if you like, but let them go if they’re stretching you. All the thoughts in your head should be about conserving energy. Ask yourself questions. How’s my breathing? Are my shoulders relaxed? Is my stride the right length to conserve energy? Am I running the tightest line around the course? Is running behind this bloke going to break the wind for me?

If you’re doing this half in preparation for a longer triathlon or marathon take a gel at about 6 miles (10k). It’s probably not really going to do much but it’s good practice and something to look forward to doing half way through the race. Don’t wear a FuelBelt or I’ll disown you. Carry the gel in a pocket and wash it down with water. Stop and walk a couple of steps if you have to get enough water (not sports drink) into you to dilute and digest the gel properly.

O.K. You’re at 7 miles, now what? You’ve had your gel and it should’ve kicked in by now and you should be feeling pretty good, pretty chirpy. Now is time to start thinking about that PR, your goal time and place, digging deep and dropping that pack of try hards you’ve been running with.

You can now start to count down the miles 6,5,4,3. Each mile you tick off ask yourself “Can I run another 5 at this same pace?” “Can I run another 4 at this pace?” If the answer is a “No!” then dial it back a little. If the answer is a “Maybe” increase your pace a smiggen.

Keep hammering, keep focusing on who’s in front, keep reeling them in, stay tough, keep hurting, keep counting down the miles and keep telling yourself you’re almost there. Skip the aid stations unless you’re thirsty or have a dry throat or something because no calories are really going to help you at this point.

Then, eventually, you’ll be done. I promise. If you've done it properly you'll have nothing left. Hopefully it worked out OK but if it didn’t you’ll have a ton of knowledge and experience to get it right next time.

How does a half marathon play out in your head?

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