Thoughts on the Marathon Goal Pace Run


I’m coming to you smack dab in the middle of an awesome weekend, but I wanted to talk a bit about this morning’s run before it got lost in the shuffle of awesomeness.

Original Plan: 9 miles, 7 at marathon goal pace (9:09)

Modified Plan After About Five Minutes of Running and Feeling Tight as Hell Legs: 7 miles, 5 at MGP

I’ll admit, while I try to be tough about running and force myself out in the cold, I’m a total weenie when it comes to the rain and usually opt for a treadmill when it’s raining. I would rather run in freezing weather than in a little rain. But this morning, after sleeping in until 9, I dragged myself out in the rain to get some miles in.

Halfway to the West Side Highway, my legs weren’t feeling any looser, and I decided to stick to 7, instead of pushing myself to do 9. I’m ordinarily all for pushing myself in a run, but I have 18 planned for tomorrow and pushing myself would not have been smart.

I did an MGP run a few weeks ago, but considering it was only 4 miles and included two bathroom stops, I’m not counting it, and counting this as my first real MGP run.

I did some tempo miles at 8:30ish pace the other day that weren’t terribly difficult, so I thought I wouldn’t have too difficult a time today–and I didn’t, as in it wasn’t difficult on my legs.

The concept of a marathon goal pace run is so that you know what your pace feels like so that you can hold it on race day.

Well, kids, I still have some work to do on figuring out what it feels like. My average pace was an 8:58, 11 seconds faster than my MGP. This kind of run is absolutely a mental test of perceived effort.

I thought MGP would feel like I was running strong, but not trying to run fast, so that’s what I went for, a little too fast. I perceive an easy run to feel like a jog, tempos to feel like I’m running fast, and intervals to feel pretty close to sprinting.

It appears my perception is not my reality here. I’m interested to see if I get any better at honing in on MGP as training continues.

So many questions for you:

Do you do MGP runs?

Is 10 seconds off a big deal?

How do you hone in on the MGP while running? What does it feel like to you, in terms of perceived effort?

What’s the longest MGP run you’ve done/will do during training?

10 comments on “Thoughts on the Marathon Goal Pace Run

  1. Celia

    During the marathon you won’t be running the tangents perfectly. Therefore if you actually want to break four hours you will need to run a bit faster according to your garmin because you will be running more than 26.2 miles.

  2. Kimra

    In my great failed sub-2 half attempts of 2011, I trained my goal pace miles at 9:00 instead of 9:09, exactly because I’m terrible at tangents and figured I might get caught in congestion at a water stop or something. My tempo pace in those days was closer to 8:40. I think having the three different paces (tempo, goal, long run) helped me figure out which one “race pace” felt like, but I also didn’t break 2 hours, so what do I know? 😉

  3. Karen@ La Chanson de Ma Vie

    Think of it as building a pace gear into your legs, knowing what it feels like in your heart, lungs, and legs, not as speed work. If 400s-1600s are a 10, and my recovery jogs are a 1, I’d say that a MRP run is about a 6-7. My longest MRP runs will be 12 miles. It would go to about 15 mi, but I’m racing a half instead.

    I’m early in my training cycle for a Dec marathon and have been running my MRP runs about 10 seconds fast too, but I’m not quite yet into the marathon specific speed work (mile repeats, tempo runs), so they will be a little faster. As you get nearer to your marathon and higher miles (basically, more fatigue), MRP runs should eventually be really close to your goal pace.

    What marathon are you training for? 🙂

  4. Nicole @ Apples and Arteries

    I never did a MPG run–my goal was always to put in the miles, not get injured, and finish the marathon on 2 feet! Today is the Ironman in Madison…so yesterday as I headed out for 5 miles, I thought – ummm,,,5 is nothing compared to what the Ironman athletes will do!

  5. Kyle Kranz

    Remember that at different times of the year and season you will be at different levels of fitness. Thus it is very common to do “Marathon Effort” runs, instead of actually hitting a pace goal. If you take an 2:45 capable athlete and have him doing 15 mile MGP runs 6 months out, he’s going to seriously struggle. However doing them at the correct perceived effort may be more appropriate.

    Also, you made the right choice on bailing on the run in favor of the next day’s long run.

  6. Kathy Q

    I’ve had this struggle too; I am using 9:05 as my MGP (although I know sub-4 is a reach for me) and most of my MGP runs I have struggled to keep slow enough and have mostly been around 8:55. I’m okay with that since, as Celia says, MGP needs to be a bit faster anyway. But this past week was my first longer MGP (7 miles out of 9 total) and with the crazy humidity we had in DC, it was tougher than the others have been. I wonder too how long my longest MGP run should be. My plan says 8 miles, I think, but I wonder if I need more than that to really feel confident in the pace.

    1. Kyle Kranz

      @Kathy Q:
      Simply put, the goal of training should make you feel confident in your abilities to accomplish your race plan. If you feel you need more than 8 miles at your planned marathon pace to feel more satisfied, then you need more than 8 miles!

  7. Cathryn @ myheartscontent

    I’m training for a sub-two half and so am aiming for a 9.02 or 9.03 pace instead of the 9.07 that I need. I’m trying to build up my long runs so that they’re all at this pace – I have no idea if that’s smart or not but it feels logical to me. Today I ran 12.5 at 9.00 and was pretty happy about that. But I’ve just read Kimra’s comment above and am once again struck with fear!!!


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