Marathon Pace

When people talk about a steady run, I think about marathon pace. Marathon pace is aerobic, so you should be able to do your whole weekly long run at this speed. It is also faster than your easy pace and so more interesting for those of us who are not running swift times. 

Marathon pace

Variety: Steady run or long repeats (e.g. 2 x 4 miles at marathon pace)

Intensity: Generally in the range 75-84% of VO2max or 80-90% of your HRmax.

Purpose: Used to experience race pace conditions for those training for a marathon or simply as an alternative to Easy pace running for beginners on long run days.

The RUN SMART project

I have been reading the Frank Howitt archive on the Serpentine running club’s website; most of the pro-level training plans he suggests, from the mile to 10k, involve running 13 miles at a pace similar to an athletes marathon speed. Jack Daniel’s advises beginner runners could use this pace as an alternative on easy runs.

Pete Magill in ‘Fast 5K‘ says that the comfortably hard marathon pace is the slowest speed for a tempo run and recommends runners targetting the 5K build up to workouts of 25 to 30 continuous minutes. Pete advises initially breaking tempo runs into 5-10 minute blocks with 2-3 minute jogs as recovery to reduce the resulting fatigue and help you to auto-regulate the pace.

Fast 5K Marathon pace progression:

  • Beginner: 10min
  • Intermediate: 2 x 10 min w/ 3 min recovery jog
  • Advanced #1: 2 x 10 min + 5 min w/ 2 min recovery jog
  • Advanced #2: 3 x 10 min w/ 3 min recovery
  • Elite: 30min

Once comfortable performing 30 minutes of continuous marathon pace as part of your weekly 13-mile long run, you could pick up a marathon training plan for progression ideas. In Daniels’ running formula, Jack Daniels recommends 40-110 minutes and under 18 miles marathon pace per workout and between 15-20% of weekly mileage. Daniel’s says to use marathon pace when training for a marathon or building confidence in sustaining longer efforts.

Daniel’s running formula marathon pace workouts:

  1. 60 min E, 30 min M, 10 min E
  2. 60 min E, 40 min M, 10 min E
  3. 60 min E, 60 min M, 10 min E
  4. 30-40 min E, 80 min M, 10 min E
  5. 40-60 min E, 70 min M, 10 min E

Marathon pace is a fun, comfortably hard pace for steady runs to build stamina and confidence. The pace provides more muscle activation and physiological benefits than the traditional long-run easy pace but can be tougher on your body. Build up slowly to including more of the long run mileage at this speed until you can perform 13 miles at the pace. This approach will introduce enjoyment to the long miles, building a solid engine and strong legs to tackle any distance you choose to race.