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Use This Race Strategy For Your Next Half Marathon

Have you ever toed the start line of race with no idea of what you were going to do once the start gun goes off? Despite following a training plan, many runners don’t have a race day strategy.

Runners know that if their training is not strategic then meeting their goal is virtually impossible. Somehow, many runners fail to realize they must also be strategic about racing. Creating a race day strategy can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t have a coach to lay out a race strategy for you, then here are your guidelines—based off effort and not specific paces—for your next half marathon.

First review this effort level guide. If you normally run by pace instead of by effort write out the equivalent pace for each effort below and use those as your pacing guidelines. If you run based off how you feel, then you can simply follow the effort level guidelines. (Learn how to run by effort here).

Effort Level Guide:

Level 1: Slow walk
Level 2: Brisk walk
Level 3: A super slow jog
Level 4: A slow run where you feel like you’re having to intentionally slow down, but you are not compromising your running stride
Level 5: A comfortable pace where you feel like you could run forever; you should be able to speak in full sentences
Level 6: This pace feels like a little bit of work, but you shouldn’t be huffing and puffing
Level 7: 10K race effort; you should be able to speak words and choppy sentences
Level 8: Slightly less comfortable than 10K pace; you can speak words, but not sentences
Level 9: Should feel very difficult, but like you’re holding back just a teeny bit and have one more gear left; talking is challenging
Level 10: An all-out effort; talking should be very difficult

Then look at the course map for your race while you review the race strategy below. Visualize yourself running at each prescribed effort level below during the prescribed portions of the race.

Race Strategy:

Miles 1 – 3: Effort level 4
Miles 4- 7: Effort level 5
Miles 8-10: Effort level 6
Mile 11: Effort level 7
Mile 12: Effort level 8
Mile 13: Effort level 9
Last .1: Effort level 10

This race strategy is a great way to run a negative split and save energy for the final miles. It will be difficult to hold back in the first half of the race, but it will pay off tremendously. Remember that no matter what those last few miles are going to be very difficult. This is when your mental training comes into play. Trust yourself and embrace the challenge!

Lastly, don’t forget that your race strategy should also include a fueling and hydration plan. Write out when you’ll fuel during the race and how often you plan to use water stops.

Race Pace Jess

Jess Underhill fell in love with running during a rough patch in life, a time period most people just refer to as middle school. Twenty-six years later that first runner's high she experienced continues to shape nearly every aspect of her life, including her career. She has a Master's Degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, is graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a UESCA Certified Run Coach. Most recently Jess launched Race Pace Run Club, a free virtual run club that welcomes runners of all levels from coast to coast and also meets in-person in NYC. She is an ambassador for Sparkly Soul Headbands