health, marathon, running

Time Goal for Manchester Marathon

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but it’s quite hard to articulate well. So: I’m running without a time goal on April 10th.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it’s been really playing on my mind. Do I run with a time goal? Do I push myself to the limit? Do I sit back (figuratively speaking) and enjoy the day?
Every once in a while I catch myself amongst the nerves and exhaustion and get a glimpse of how exciting race day is going to be. So many people have told me to just enjoy my first ever marathon as opposed to stressing over a time goal. Based on my 10K PB, my training plan has a finish time estimate of 3:54 whilst the Runner’s World Pace Calculator has me finishing around 3:43. I don’t know what to make of this!
My injury has been plaguing me consistently, though not severely, throughout the training process. A lot of my “pace” runs have been nowhere near fast enough, but I had a really strong 20-miler a few weeks ago.
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So the strategy is this: I’ll start out slow, and evaluate at both 10 and 13 miles. If I’m feeling good at the halfway point, I might start to dream a little. But you only get one shot at your first marathon.
Who knows?!
What are your thoughts? Would you like to race without a time goal?
Lots of love,

15 thoughts on “Time Goal for Manchester Marathon”

  1. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having time goals for a first marathon, I also don’t really see the point of it, frankly. I think it just adds another layer of stress and pressure when you already have enough of that just from trying to get through a distance that’s longer than anything your body has run before. Besides, whatever time you run is going to be an auto-PR anyway. Most people, at the end of their training, will have a general idea of what time they are able to run and can use that as a guideline for pacing. But seriously, don’t worry about your time. My advice is to just focus on enjoying the experience. You only get one first marathon, and there will always be other races to try for goal times.

    Also, take race prediction calculators with a grain of salt. They can be good for giving a rough estimate of potential performance based on averages, but it they don’t know what’s going to happen any more than you do. The calculator doesn’t know the conditions or course profile of each race, how you trained for each one,how experienced you are at each distance, your running history, your strengths and weaknesses, or anything like that. It assumes perfect training, and it takes a snapshot from one day in time and gives you a ballpark estimate of what someone with that time could potentially run when all things are equal, which they rarely are. Don’t let the predictor mess with your head and make you feel like you need to measure up to those times. Take it easy, listen to your body, and let the day guide you, and always respect the distance. Marathons are never easy and a lot can happen over 26 miles. I’m sure that you will run a great race, no matter the time, and be very proud of yourself.


  2. I’d be inclined not to push it on the first one, but then again, feck it! Sub-four would be fantastic first time out. If you plan to do that, split the race up into manageable bits. 4 x 10ks is not bad, with a bit at the end for photographs 😉
    Then pace each section. Don’t go out slow, don’t go out fast. Go out in the first few k at an easy, slightly sub-10k pace, then pick it up a wee bit so each quarter split is about right for the finish time. So, if you do each quarter in about 57 minutes, you’ll have about 12 minutes at the end to run 2k. And yes, all that looks great on paper, but the real deal can be harder (will be, I suspect). And others will no doubt offer different (and more suitable) plans too, I guess. But make sure to enjoy it. You will, as you say, never do your first one again.


  3. What will be will be but having a goal does help, i.e. maybe just give yourself the confidence of “anything under 4Hrs, or … ” will be a great result. i think, if you’ve done the training, why not see what you’re capable of but most of all, just enjoy it Pippa. Have fun and take care.


  4. I’ve heard the advice to have 3 goals – your true goal time, a slower time that you’d be happy enough with, and then a 3rd goal that’s almost guaranteed, i.e. finish the race. That way you’re striving for something, but hopefully never disappointed. That being said, I’m so slow, my usual goal is to finish before they close the course. Haha.

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  5. i think thats a great idea. I mean im sure you will have those times in your mind but its your first ever marathon. enjoy the experience, listen to your body and dont get hurt again. i think runners get so caught up with times we ignore potential injury signs and push too hard and get really hurt. you dont want that so i think your plan is perfect. if you get a 3:40 something time great, but as long as you cross the finish line I think you can say you well accomplished your goal!


  6. A good “A” goal is to just enjoy the race. But you can have two “A” goals, and if you’re feeling good, a sub-four is a great goal for the first marathon. That being said, it’s very difficult, even for a good runner (my pace calculators were suggesting 3:35-3:50 finishes for me based on half-marathon time, and needless to say, that didn’t happen). I ended up with 4:08, but the joy of running distances I had NEVER run before, ever, outweighed everything. 🙂


  7. I pretty much echo everything Hanna said, but especially with the pace calculators. Not only is there a lot of things that aren’t taken into account, but a 10K is a very tough predictor for a full marathon because it’s only about a quarter of the distance and even at a fast pace your body doesn’t start to tap into some of the resources it will use in the marathon. I think it’s good to go in without a time goal, but I understand wanting to have some sort of idea of what pace you should run. My pacing strategy was to start 15-30 seconds slower per mile than the pace I thought I could maintain and run at that pace for around the first 5 miles (because obviously I’m in America so that’s how my brain works!). After 5 miles I moved up to the pace I thought I could maintain. I actually based my pace off of my HR data to be a pace I felt I could comfortably maintain, but also wasn’t pushing my body too hard. It was almost 30 seconds slower than what a race predictor calculator would say based on my half marathon PB. I do caution you on speeding up at the 10 or 13 mile mark… unless you went out too fast, you’re going to be feeling good at this point. The adrenaline will be pumping, you’ll feel awesome… but you’re only about half way there. You don’t want to speed up and suddenly bonk at 16 or 18. I was running with two experienced marathoners who would not let me speed up after the half way mark. We hit mile 21 and I was flying because my legs just wanted to go and was told to “slow down, there’s still 5.2 miles to go” and I was thinking “But I feel so good” except that they were exactly right. Mile 23 is when I finally started to feel tired. Mile 23! When I finally felt tired I didn’t end up punching the pace until I hit mile 25 and knew I only had 1.2 miles to go. I remember passing the 23 mile marker, starting to feel tired, but realizing that people around me were starting to walk, stretch, hold at spots on their legs that were cramping and I was moving along fine. Don’t let those walkers/crampers/stretchers be you! Don’t go out too fast, don’t speed up too soon. Treat it as an easy long run and enjoy the moment. Most people don’t break 4 hours their first marathon. There’s always a second or a third or a fourth for that. But there’s never another first marathon experience. Enjoy it!


  8. I did Manchester last year and chased a sub 4 and blew up at 17 Miles. Pace calculators in my experience usually set times that are very ambitious. I’d aim for the sub 4. By the sound of it you are more than capable of hitting that target.


  9. I would advise against a time goal for your first race. Marathons are different then a 5k and predicting a time based on the other is far from scientific. Some runners are much stronger in shorter events (me) then longer events. My actual finish times compared to calculators are pretty accurate for my 1 mile, 5k, 10k and HM. They are not even remotely in the ballpark for my full marathons. Here’s a few calculated examples…

    VO2max (based on a Bruce protocol stress test which is stupidly did the day after a half marathon). 55.09. Predicted marathon finish time – 2:55:40 (woohoo! Hello elite runner status!)

    Marathon finish time predicted from my PR at the HM distance (1:44:09) – 3:38:59 (with a lot of hard work, I could BQ)

    Actual marathon PR – 4:26:30 (hello middle of the pack). Current marathon finish time 5+ hours (excuse me, did you already hand out all of the bananas?)

    You don’t know how you will do at a marathon until you run one. Enjoy it. Next marathon you will have a real frame of reference to make a prediction and a goal…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Arrah sure when I finally finished my first Marathon in Dublin, they were putting away the crash barriers, and the traffic was back on the street. They had nothing to hand out. And to really make matters worse, when I made my way to the pub to meet my friends, a guy at the door handed me the evening paper, with a PICTURE OF THE RACE WINNER ON THE FRONT! In fairness, I wasn’t last. Officially, I was second last. I would like to add I have improved a little since then 😉

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  10. Well, as a back of the packer, my first marathon goal was to get to the day of the race injury free! Once I was there, my only goal was to finish. I generally run/walk, and since being plagued with injuries, my pace is something like 13+ min/mile. I am not ashamed. I’m out there doing it, just slower than most! And I did finish my first marathon, and I wasn’t last. So there’s that. I think generally my goal for races is not to be last- I’ve got a 100% success rate!

    But in terms of your first, I would do just what you said- run it at your personal pace, whatever that is, and just reevaluate as you go. That being said, I would try to take some moments to take in all the excitement around you and not miss being IN the moment by worrying over time. You can always do it again and push for a better time, but you only have one first marathon, so really be in the moment out there!

    Good luck!


  11. You’re so much better prepared than I was so this may be garbage. Go out slow, all those gazelles that go flying off will be crashing later on as you cruise past.
    Whatever speed you do the first 10k in will be too quick, people overtake and you get dragged along to their speed. Don’t do as I did and melt…32k of hard work is no fun if you burn on the first 10k. I’d say have a ‘I wanna beat xxx, but mostly I wanna run it at a good level and not crash out’ target…. Have a great race!!!


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