A blog by runners. For runners.

Marathon training paces: how to reach your finish time goal

Whether trying to PR, BQ, or just run a strong first marathon, there’s probably a number you want to see on that clock at the finish line. To reach your goal, you need to train at the appropriate paces — and adjust them throughout your training cycle.

But how do you know what those numbers are  and what they should be?

Determine your current — and evolving — fitness levels
The most important thing you can do to ensure you’re training at the optimal paces is to schedule shorter races throughout your training. For example, during a 20-week training cycle, you can do a 5K in week 5, a 10K in week 10, and a half marathon around week 15.

These races give you get a benchmark of your current fitness levels and allow you to adjust training paces (more on that below).

Where you should be to reach your goal
If you’re going for a specific marathon time, you can use a pace predictor calculator to determine what you should be running in shorter races.

For example, if you enter that you want to run 26.2 in 3:35 your shorter races would like this:


If you’re going slower than these paces, don’t fret. Every 4 to 6 weeks your body moves up one notch on something called the VDOT scale. Created by Jack Daniels, VDOT predicts your VO2 max (max oxygen uptake), which has a high correlation with certain paces over certain distances. Here’s a good calculate to use to determine your VDOT.

Training paces
So now that you know where you are – and have an idea of where you want to be — improve your conditioning by training at the right paces for every single workout.

The McMillan training pace tool is great for figuring out how fast or slow to complete each workout based on your current fitness. Use this tool with the time from your most recent race and readjust accordingly. (You’ll need to click training paces on the left to get the times for each workout type.)

Remember the fastest way to get injured and burnout is running too fast during your training. Train at your current fitness level, NOT at the fitness level you want to be at. You will get better with time and eventually hit those paces — without injury.