Even when you are running a race according to effort rather than pace, you need to have some idea of how fast you are likely to run. This is another important reason you need to have run previous races of 10, 16, 21.1, and 32 km before attempting a marathon; the times you run in those races will allow you to predict the time you can expect to run in the marathon. The Exercisess devised by C.T.M. Davies and Thompson (1979; Exercises 2.3), J. Daniels and Gilbert (1979; Exercises 2.4), Tom Osier (1978; Exercises 2.6), Gardner and Purdy (1970; Exercises 2.7) and Mercier et al. (1985; Exercises 2.8) give predicted marathon and ultramarathon times on the basis of performances in shorter races.
For example, let us assume that your times in races of those four distances were 37:21, 1:01:54, 1:22:38, and 2:08:54. Exercises 9.1 shows that according to the data of J. Daniels and Gilbert (1979), each of these performances equates to a V02max of 56.3 ml/kg/min and a final marathon time of2:52:34. This indicates that you are well trained, because your performances do not deteriorate with distance.
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In contrast, if your times for those races are as shown in Exercises 9.2, your performance clearly deteriorates with increasing distance. You are obviously inadequately trained for the longer distances and cannot expect to run the standard marathon even in the time predicted from your 32-km time. You should probably aim to run the marathon as if your predicted V02max were only 40.1 ml/kg/min, which would give you a predicted marathon time of 3:48:57.
Predicting the time you are likely to run in the standard marathon on the basis of your times at shorter distances is important because very few novices have the slightest idea of the times they are likely to run in their first marathons. One North American study (Franklin et al, 1978) revealed that 65% of first- and second-time marathoners predicted they would run faster than they actually did. Worse, 15% of the first-time and 8% of the second-time marathoners predicted they would run 1 hour faster than they subsequently did! In contrast, the authors found that experienced marathoners could predict their marathon times to within a few minutes.
If you are running the marathon “cold,” never having competed in any of these distances and having no idea of what you can do, only one tactic remains. Line up 5 m behind the last row of runners at the marathon start and start the race in the slowest pace that will get you to the finish in under 4:30 (i.e, 6:23/km), if that is the final cut-off time. If after the 34-km mark you are sure that this pace is too slow, then, and only then, is it safe to speed up.
Having decided on the pace at which you will run the marathon, you can then calculate the split times you will run at 1, 8, 10, 16, 21.1, and 32 km (see Exercises 9.3). How this information is incorporated in the prerace mental strategy is described later.
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