By Lewis Morrison, MSc, CSEP-CEP, FMS2, Peak Centre for Human Performance Choosing a realistic race goal for 10K, half or full marathons can be tough, since it depends on a number of different factors. How do you know what is a realistic goal for you? How do you know what you could achieve on race day? How do you know how much faster you could go?
Step 1: Assess what a realistic goal in your training time frame is
One of the most important factors in choosing your race goal is the time frame in which you have to do it. If your race is next month and you want to knock off 20 minutes from a 1:50 half marathon time you might need to re-evaluate your goals slightly. But if your goal is to knock of 5 minutes and you have 3 to 5 months to prepare, the chances of achieving it are greatly increased. The more time you have to prepare and the more training volume you’re able to get in, the more aggressive you can be in choosing your goal. As a general rule, we would say that cutting 1 minute per month of training is a realistic goal increase for somebody running 2 to 4 times per week.
Step 2: Get scientific to fine tune your goal
The most accurate way of finding out what you could achieve is to complete a blood lactate assessment through an accredited sports science facility such as the Peak Centre for Human Performance, Fortius Sport & Health, Pacific Sport, or other qualified training center. This will give you the most accurate picture of your current fitness, allow you to choose a realistic goal and train as efficiently as possible towards that goal.
Step 3: Match your training to your goal
Once you’ve chosen your goal, the next step is to try your Race Pace as part of your long run. By gradually extending the Race Pace Portion of your Long, Slow Distance runs by 5 minutes each week you will get a sense of how that pace feels in relation to the distance you complete. If you can hold it then you’re setting yourself up for a great race. But if you’re having trouble holding the target pace then perhaps you just need a little more time to achieve your goal or you need to choose a more manageable target.
Step 4: Check the race course
You should also take into consideration the race course profile. If you’re completing a particularly hilly course (or with a net uphill elevation gain) then you may need to adjust those goals back (a slower goal time) compared to a course which is more flat or downhill in which case you could be more aggressive. So now that you’ve decided on your target, what is the best way to achieve it? If you need some help, check out these training programs for 10K, half and full marathons to get you on the right track!