First off, I think it's important to pick a realistic goal for you. I trained for a 3:30 marathon, but I only achieved 3:39. Am I happy? You betcha! I really wanted to run under 3:40, and I knew that training a little harder would get me there. If you are wondering what a good goal is for you, I would suggest checking out the McMillan Pace Calculator.
One tip I heard is that a marathon pace should be 1 minute longer than your 5K pace/mile, 45 seconds longer than your 10K pace/mile, and 30 seconds longer than your half marathon pace/mile. If you look at my PR's, that was exactly true for me for my first marathon. For example, my Half Marathon PR is 7:46/mile, so I could realistically run a marathon with an 8:16/mile pace.
Second of all- you have to run smart. A marathon is a whole different beast than a 5K, 10K, or even a half marathon. You do not want to burn out when you still have 6 miles left to go- it's tough enough as it is. Top of Utah was unique in that it wasn't the best idea to run a "negative split" (which means running the last half of the race faster than the first half); most other marathons (and races!) you want to be able to achieve the goal of a negative split. I think it's very smart to hold yourself back for the first 18 miles- or even 20! I can't tell you what a huge boost it was to know that I was at mile 22 and I still felt great. I didn't experience the "marathon death shuffle" at all and I credit that to running smart.
That being said, here are the splits:
Mile 1: 8:05 pace
Mile 2: 7:59 pace
Mile 3: 7:59 pace- drank powerade at the water stop
Mile 4: 8:08 pace
Mile 5: 8:02 pace- drank powerade at the water stop
Mile 6: 8:07 pace- ate 1/2 granola bar. I had a hard time swallowing it while I was running.
Mile 7: 8:12 pace- drank powerade at the water stop
Mile 8: 7:50 pace
Mile 9: 8:02- drank powerade at the water stop
Mile 10: 8:19 pace
Mile 11: 7:59- drank powerade at the water stop
Mile 12: 8:01- ate some shot blocks. I had an easier time swallowing these when I was running but I accidentally dropped one
Mile 13: 8:05- drank water at the water stop.
Mile 14: 8:15 pace
Mile 15: 7:59- drank powerade at the water stop
Mile 16: 8:17 pace
Mile 17: 8:20- drank powerade at the water stop a
Mile 18: 8:19 pace- I kicked it into gear and passed the pacers at this point. Looking at my splits I can definitely tell that it was "maximum effort" and not "maximum speed". I was slower than I thought! I can't imagine how slow I would have been at this point if I hadn't run conservatively at the beginning.
Mile 19: 8:00 pace- I ate a GU and drank water at the aid station. Rachelle told me to GU before I felt like I needed to, and I'm so glad I did!
Mile 20: 8:38 pace
Mile 21: 8:24- drank powerade at the water stop and tried to eat a banana but ended up dropping it!
Mile 22: 8:35
Mile 23: 8:49- drank powerade at the aid station
Mile 24: 9:06- Oh no! The pacers caught up to me! Maybe it would have been better if I had stuck with the pacers until the last couple of miles??? Or the entire time? I guess what I'm saying here is THE PACERS ARE A VERY, VERY GOOD THING. I highly suggest using them.
Mile 25: 8:24- I didn't stop at the aid station because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to start running again! No lie. I felt totally hydrated and fueled because I didn't run through a single water stop prior to this.
Mile 26: 8:50 pace (Woah! As Kara Goucher says, "When you think you're keeping pace, you're actually slowing down.")
Final .56: 7:37 pace- had enough kick at the end to finish strong.
The main tips are:
- Use a pace group.
- Don't pass on the water stops in the beginning. (If you feel like you think you need to fuel or drink, then it is already too late!)
- Don't push really hard until mile 18- or even later.
- Pick a reasonable goal for you. If it's your first marathon, don't put too much time pressure on yourself. More than anything, you want to enjoy this accomplishment!