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I've been wondering if there is an "ideal" or "recommended" race pace strategy? For example, do you run the whole race at the same pace or do you go for an average? Do you start off slow and speed up throughout? Do you plateau once you reach a goal pace?
I'd really appreciate your thoughts.
A lot depends on the distance of your race. Even or just slightly negative is best if you can run your race that way. One thing for sure is that if you go out to fast you will pay for it latter in the race!
I agree that a lot depends on the distance of the race and I have also learned over the years to study the specific course because that influences the plan (so trying to take advantage of flat, downhill portions and preparing for where the long inclines are coming, for example). Also, it is easy to get "off pace", especially at larger races or with unexpected happenings along a longer route. I would say get into the physical/mental groove early on and keep a good estimate of the sense of mile markers.
Of course the best pace formula is highly individualized, just as certain training plans are different based on personal abilities and expectations. I guess if I had to give a short answer, it would simply be to focus on the strongest areas and have faith in those aspects at events.
Conventional race wisdom is to do either an even pace or slight negative splits. That assumes that the terrain is relatively uniform through the race. If there are significant hills, running them at constant effort - not constant speed - is an efficient way to use your energy - you intentionally slow down on the uphills and speed up on the downhills.
Starting out too fast is almost always a recipe for burnout late in the race, especially at longer distances, but even in shorter distances like the 5K.
In a 5K or 10K race, I tend to run the first mile just a bit slower than what I'd consider ideal pace. This is often unavoidable, especially in a large field, where it can often take a quarter mile or more for the crowd to start thinning out. That usually leads to slight negative splits. In the last mile, I'll often turn up the heat as far as I can without burning out - leaving just enough for a final acceleration if I need it, say to beat a certain clock time (or to get past someone who looks like they're in my age group).
@ 5K: Ontario Mills 5K, Ontario, CA, 25:17
New Balance Palm Springs 5K, Palm Springs, CA, 24:32
@ 10K: LA Chinatown Firecracker 10K, Los Angeles, CA, 52:15
Great Race of Agoura - Old Agoura 10K, Agoura Hills, CA, 51:40
Thanks all. So what I'm basically hearing is that, for longer races especially, aside from a small ramp up early on and pushing toward the very end, you run the whole race at your goal pace. So, for example, if you want to run a half at an 8 min mile time, you will run the race at that speed. This, as opposed to, let's say a 9 min mile the first quarter, an 8 min mile in the middle, and a sub-8 the last quarter. (I don't if that math works, but I hope you get the point.) Right?
I would add that for new runners that the way you posted is not bad. It takes time to be able to pace correctly in a race! You will feel better doing it the way you posted, but it might not give you your best time, which is okay.