Aim To Finish Faster In a Marathon

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Each and every half marathon or marathon race should begin with a plan on finishing faster than their previous race or at least have a predetermined run finishing time.   Many marathoners want to improve their finish time and establish a Personal Record (PR).

The steps listed here can help an individual run faster and stronger, and enjoy the race as well.  We assume that you have run at least one or more half or full marathons when training to Aim to Finish Faster In A Marathon.

It's a common mistake that many individuals start off a race very fast and ends up slowing down at the end whereby missing their finishing goal time.  Oops.   A more effective plan would be to start slower or at a slower pace then in the second half of the race, run faster than the first.   You will clock a better time and feel stronger.   This is the most efficient way to run, instead of burning all your fuel early, you save energy for the end and gain confidence as you stride past everyone in those last few miles.

There are many rewards for a fast finish.  Usually you will feel great and feel good that you met or beat your finished goal time.  By learning how to pace yourself in workouts to finish strong reduces your risk of injury, boosts your fitness, and keeps you feeling good, all of which supports a lifelong running routine.  Here's how to practice these few simple steps for finishing strong in a half or full marathon.


Starting a Marathon Race












There are three elements in running: Strength, Endurance, and Speed.  We assume you have run one or more half or full marathons which means you possess some of these elements.

In order to Finish Faster and Stronger In A Marathon, you will need to train for Speed-Endurance to obtain your target goal time, even though your muscles will obtain more strength in the process.


1.  Set Your Goal Time

As with any endeavor, it is important to start with the goal in mind.  In this case, your run goal time.  You should set your new run goal time at least between 1-10% faster than your GPS Watch Running Time previous run time, assuming you have run a few races.  I recently ran a half marathon and beat my time by 4 minutes and 36 seconds on a similar flat surface with no hills.

Usually, I will have different run times for different types of races:  runs with hills and flat runs.  On the runs with hills, my run time could be a minute to a few minutes slower.  Therefore, I categorize the different races and I set my run goal times to the previous run times for the different types of races.



2.  Set Your Pace Run Time

Now that you know your run time, you can calculate your average pace run time.  For example if you are running a half marathon and you want a to achieve a 1 hour and 45 minute finish time, then your average run pace is shown below.  You need to convert the hour to 60 minutes.

Average Pace Run Time =(60 minutes + 45 minutes)/13.1 miles = 8 minute/mile

So you would need to run an average of an 8 minute/mile run pace time.   We recommend you use a GPS watch to monitor your average run pace in order for you to adjust your running pace.   But, if you don't have a GPS watch, you can use a cell phone running app such as MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Nike, etc... (you can refer to my free Top 10 Running Apps here) to set and monitor your pace time. 

Some apps will give you an audible indication through your earphones whether you are running faster or slower than your pace time.  Shown below is one of my free recommended running apps Endomondo which displays your current pace time and average pace time so you can know if you need to speed up if necessary.


Endomondo Running App















3.  Plan Your Training Workouts

Over a timespan of 2 to 6 months of training, you can have a 5 to 30 seconds per mile of improvement.  The reason I give a large timespan 2-6 months for training is because the lower number 2 can be for the  more advanced runner (since they need less training) and the higher number 6 for the beginner runner (since they need more time to train and improve).  But on race day, weather and crowds could cause a slowdown so you need to plan ahead of these types of things.

Half Marathon Training Plan


















You need to determine which days you are dedicating to train for the next 2-6 months.  Usually I like to run on Tuesdays and Thursdays and go for a long run either Saturday or Sunday.  You can Cross Train/Hill Train/Interval Train on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday (depending which day you choose for the long run).  The important thing is that you need to establish a routine and commit to it.


4.  Speed Interval Training Workouts (Run Yasso 800s)


800m Running Track















Interval training combines short, high intensity bursts of speed, with slow, recovery phases, repeated during one exercise session.  Interval Training helps build speed and endurance.

I learned about this amazingly run workout in a conversation with Runner's World  event promotions manager Bart Yasso.  Literally thousands of runners have said that the program has worked for them.

With the Yasso system, you run 800-meter repeats on a track in the same minutes/seconds as your hours/minutes goal time for a marathon.

For example, if you are looking to run a 4:30 in a marathon, do your 800s in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.  (If you run half marathons, then just double your time).  But I must warn that you must be in relatively good running shape to perform the Yasso 800s.

If your not in the best shape, you can design your own interval training program.  An example for half marathoners is shown below:

1. One-mile warm-up.
2. Thirty seconds of high-intensity running (90 to 95 percent of max) followed by three minutes of recovery.  Over time, you can increase your interval times from 30 seconds to 45, 60 seconds, etc...
3. Repeat six times.

Interval Training Safety Tips

  • Always warm up before starting intervals
  • Assess current conditioning and set training goals that are within your ability
  • Start slowly. (for example: walk 2 minutes/ run 2-4 minutes).  In general, longer intervals provide better results
  • Keep a steady, but challenging pace throughout the interval
  • Build the number of repetitions over time


5.  Run Longer Tempo Runs

In the beginning of your training, you can start with 20 minute tempo runs once a week.  You can run a 5k tempo run at a pace that is 10-20 seconds slower than your 5k pace.   Over time you can increase your tempo runs up to 60 minutes if you are running  a marathon.

Tempo run can help improve your endurance over time along with your other training workouts.  Be sure to take 1 or 2 easy days before and after a tempo run.


6.  Run Longer and Fast

This step can be used for your long run on either Saturday or Sunday.  You will run a longer run on either Saturday or Sunday where each week you increase your mileage Runner Sprintingand run consistent and fast at the end of your run.

This endurance run is based on long, hard runs.  To finish strong and improve your time in a marathon, you have to run hard and fast at the end of your long run.  In other words, Turn It Up at the end!

A good plan would be to splitting up your race distance into segments.  For a half marathon  you could have three segments, where in each successive segment you run slightly faster.  At the end of your race you can be running slightly faster than your average speed.  Think of these segments as interval training runs as you performed in Step 4.



Does your marathon training incorporate some of these steps and which ones do you feel benefit you the most? 







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