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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2003

Pacing is key to success

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By Jonathan Lyau
Special to The Advertiser

Knowing at what pace you want to run the marathon will determine where you start the race.

Advertiser library photo • Dec. 8, 2003


About this series
Veteran Hawai'i runner Jonathan Lyau will provide tips on the Honolulu Marathon — from training to recovery.

Nov. 21 — The course. Knowing the route gives runners an advantage.

Nov. 28 — Tapering. Cutting down your mileage weeks before the run is perhaps the most important aspect in the last month of marathon training and often is taken lightly by many.

Today — Pre-race and race-day strategy. Knowing when to re-hydrate might be one of the keys to finishing the run in your target time.

Dec. 12 — Recovery. Knowing your body and how much rest you need are keys to the road to recovery.

WHAT: Honolulu Marathon

WHERE: Ala Moana and Queen Street extension

Contact: 734-7200 or www.honolulumarathon.org
Worldwide participation in marathons is bigger than ever. There seems to be a mystique about the 26.2-mile distance that attracts people.

This year's Honolulu Marathon expects to draw close to 26,000 participants. Everyone will have some kind of goal. It may be to finish by a certain time, or just to complete the distance.

Race planning can help make it easier for you to reach your goal and have a good experience. A plan can make you better prepared and will give you a higher percentage of success.

Pre-race day

Since the Honolulu Marathon starts at 5 a.m., you should actually start planning the day before. Getting certain things ready the day before will also ease the anxiety you may experience on marathon day.

These tasks can include setting your marathon day shoes and clothing aside along with other things you will be carrying or wearing.

You can also pin your race number on your clothes and attach the timing chip to your shoes. These are two very important items that you don't want to forget. Having no chip or number means that you are not officially in the race and you will not be timed.

If you carry gels, then empty them into your flask. If you do not have a flask, then know how you are going to carry them. A good way is to pin them in the front of your shorts near the waist, then flip them over so they will be tucked in your shorts. All you need to do is tear it whenever you need it.

If you plan to pin them in your shorts, trim the gel pack corners and edges before pinning them. This will prevent poking and chafing of your waist area. Also pre-cut the opening so that it will be easy to tear.

Race day

When you wake up on marathon morning, allow enough time to eat, drink, relax and use the restroom. Do not eat or drink anything that you have not tried as you do not know how it will affect you.

You do not have to worry too much about warming up. At the most, just do some light stretching and jogging to loosen up. The marathon is a long distance so use the first few miles to warm up.

Make sure you get to the starting area with enough time to line up in the proper location. You should start according to your predicted pace.

Lining up ahead of your pace may cause you to start off faster than you should. You could get knocked around as the faster participants pass you. Lining up behind your pace means that you may have a harder time getting into your rhythm. You will be trying to pass slower runners and it may get frustrating with the big crowd.

If you have a time goal, make sure you know your pace per mile. The route is marked at every mile, so you can check your pace throughout the race.

When you hear the starting gun and see the fireworks in the sky, the marathon has begun. Do not panic if you are not moving. The farther back you are, the longer it takes to start moving. Remember that your time starts when you cross the line, so there is no need to get antsy.

The first mile may be slower than you planned, but don't worry, the crowd will eventually thin out and you will be able to settle into your pace. If you are behind pace, do not try to make it up in the next mile. You have many miles ahead of you to do that.

Starting out

My advice is to run the first few miles at an effort easier than you think you are going. The excitement, adrenaline, and fresh legs will make you feel like you can run forever. This feeling will not last. Do the first couple of miles with the feeling that you are holding yourself back and you will probably end up running at your planned pace.

Kit Smith, 69, who has run 18 Honolulu Marathons, said: "I discipline myself to hold back in the first mile, to get into comfortable breathing. I always hope the first mile will be my slowest mile."

Basic pacing strategy for a marathon is to run even splits. Even splits mean that you run each mile close to the same pace.

Negative split pacing can be successful, too. Negative splits are when you run the last half a little faster than the first. This was how the current male and female world best times were set.

The worst strategy is going out too fast and trying to get that "money in the bank."

You will find yourself having a much slower second half as your body runs out of energy. Think of the "Tortoise and the Hare" story.

Wind and hills

Hills and wind will affect your pacing so when you encounter these, your pace will change as you run with the same effort. Don't force yourself to hold your pace going into a headwind or up a hill. Just maintain your same effort.

You will encounter hills going up Diamond Head on the way out and coming back.

Headwinds will probably be felt going up Diamond Head and also going out to Hawai'i Kai along Kalaniana'ole Highway. Find a group to run with to help pull you up the hills and block the headwinds. If you are in a group, stay in the middle or back. This will protect you from the wind and help you to conserve energy. You should feel like you are running with an easier effort.

Weather watch

Another condition that affects you is the weather. If weather conditions are bad, such as higher than normal temperatures and humidity, then you probably will not run as fast as you want. I don't figure out my pacing strategy until I wake up in the morning. When I find out what the conditions are then I adjust my time goals accordingly.

The first half of the marathon should feel fairly easy as your body warms up and you start getting into a rhythm.

Feeling strong at this point is good, but the biggest mistake is increasing your pace. Instead, try to maintain this feeling and hold your pace through mile 20. If, at this point, you still feel good, then pick up the pace to the finish.

It is said that the marathon is broken up into two halves, first half is up to mile 20 and the second half is the last 6.2 miles.

Eating and drinking

Taking fluids at every aid station will help you get through the race.

Advertiser library photo • Dec. 9, 2001

Taking in liquids and carbohydrates during the marathon can help restore some energy levels and maintain your pacing and concentration. You will be out there for several hours burning calories and you need to find a way to restore some of what you lose or your body will become depleted and the dreaded "wall" will hit you.

Start taking fluids in from the first water stop and continue at every station.

If you wait until you are thirsty, then it is too late. If you cannot drink when you are moving then walk or stop when you get to an aid station and make sure you get it in your system. If you can drink while moving, then squeeze and fold the cup at the top in a way where you will have a small opening on the end. This will prevent spillage and make it easier to drink.

A convenient source of carbohydrates that has become popular is energy gels. If you plan to take these then take your first one about an hour into the event and continue taking a packet every 30 to 40 minutes. You can coincide it with an aid station, as you need to make sure you take enough water with it to digest.

Other preferences of carbohydrates include sports drinks and energy bars.

Remember that whatever you take during marathon day should have already been tried during one of your training runs. Don't take anything you have not tried before.

The humidity can be a factor as well. If you are one to sweat a lot, you may begin to cramp because of a lack of sodium. Salt tablets will probably help you. I know someone who started cramping badly and had to stop. Luckily a spectator with a bag of potato chips came to the rescue. In a short time he was able to get back onto the course and was able to start running at a good pace again.

The marathon is a difficult event and there is no way to predict how you are going to feel on that particular day.

The best you can do is prepare for it. Your training in the previous months prepares you physically to run the distance, but race planning for the actual day can give you an extra psychological edge and prevent you from making mistakes along the way.

Jonathan Lyau, a veteran runner, will be running in his 21st Honolulu Marathon.