How to kill your next marathon goal: Get faster over the shorter distances first

The requests for coaching assistance for this year’s Cape Town Marathon are rolling in thick and fast. If you haven’t considered entering yet, this year is going to be a goodie.

Which is why I want to touch on some strange mathematics I have noticed among many runners. When setting a goal to work towards for a marathon, many seem to merely pick a nice sounding number without considering the numbers related to how fast they actually need to be able to run to achieve that.

A sub 4 hour, sub 5 hour, sub 6 hour…sounds very glam and like a good solid goal. But let’s delve a little deeper.

To run a sub 5 hour marathon for example, you will need to run two back to back half marathons with no rest in at least 2 hours 30 minutes each. You also need to be able to run 4.22 10Ks back to back in 71 minutes. And you can keep doing the math. If you cannot already run a half marathon under 2 hours 30 minutes, that means you will have to run two PB back to back half marathons! Mmmm… sounds like trouble. That does not mean your goal is impossible!! It just means you need to spend time working on your 5k, 10k and 21,1k pace so that you can get comfortable at faster than the required goal pace, so that the goal pace is very comfortable and sustainable over 42.2k.

Now that is smart training. And for those running Cape Town, the good news is that you have plenty of time still to work on those shorter distances before your next marathon block. 


So how fast do you need to get? A simple calculation is to take your

(goal marathon pace – 10 minutes)/2 to get half marathon pace.

Or – take goal marathon pace

-      minus10s/km for half marathon pace

-      Minus 20s/km for 10km pace

-      Minus 30s/km for 5km pace


Good luck!!

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen

Professional running coach

Cape Town, South Africa