Chanman's Blog

KP Half Marathon Countdown: THURSDAY – 3 days to go

Posted in Coaching,Training Thoughts by Andy Chan on February 2, 2012
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A key to success - Going over the race plan with a runner before the race.

Race strategies and split calculating.

First of all, be sure you’ve looked at a course map, preferably one with the miles marked. You don’t have to memorize every mile mark but try to have a general idea where some of them are. You will race better when you know where you’re going.


Course Map for the half marathon and 5K fun run

Half Marathon

I suggest you break the race into three sections:

1.       Start to Mile 4 (Panhandle back to JFK Drive) – Conservative; about five seconds per mile slower than your goal pace.

2.       Miles 4 to 7 (downhill through the park) – Use the downhill in the park from the museums to the beach to run a little faster. Gravity should help you to run five to ten seconds per mile faster than you ran for the first four miles.

3.       The last HALF of the race, Miles 7 to the End (Great Highway) –See if you can hold the pace you were running downhill through the park or go faster (if so, hello big PR!). If not, lock on to your goal pace and you should still be right around your goal time.

Pull out a calculator and start making some race pace calculations.

Half Marathon split calculations

1.       Establish best case and medium time goals.

2.       Think about the range of per mile paces you are likely to be able to run in the last 6.1 miles. Have a best case and medium scenario. The time range between best case and medium should be :05-:15 per mile (e.g. 6:00-6:15). Perhaps a good mile pace to consider is your 8th mile at Waterfront 10 or the 8th mile of the Lake Merced workout on MLK Day.

3.       Calculate how long it will likely take you to run the last 6.1 miles.

4.       Based on your overall time goals and your two last 6.1 times, calculate a range of times for when you should arrive at the 7 mile mark to still be on target.

5.       Pick the middle of that range as your target 7 mile time, knowing that you have some play on either side of it.

6.       Calculate the per mile pace to hit this time for 7 miles.

7.       Add :02-:07 per mile and that’s your target pace for the first 4 miles.

8.       Based on that target pace, calculate what your 4 mile cumulative time split should be.

9.       Try to be :05-:10 faster per mile for miles 5-6-7 than you were for miles 1-4 (it is downhill).

My goal times as an example:

1.       1:19:00-1:20:00

2.       5:54-6:04 (per mile for the last 6.1 miles)

3.       36:00-37:00 (to run the last 6.1 miles)  [5:54 X 6.1 = 36:00; 6:04 X 6.1 = 37:00]

4.       42:00-44:00 (range of time at the 7 mile mark)  [1:19:00 – 37:00 = 42:00; 1:20:00 – 36:00 = 44:00]

5.       43:00 (goal 7 mile mark cumulative time)

6.       6:08 (average mile for the first 7 miles)  [43:00 ÷ 7 = 6:08]

7.       6:10-6:15 (per mile for the first 4 miles)  [6:08 + :02 = 6:10; 6:08 + :07 = 6:15]

8.       24:40-25:00 (goal 4 mile mark cumulative time)  [6:10 X 4 = 24:40; 6:15 X 4 = 25:00]

9.       6:05 (per mile for miles 5-6-7)  [6:10 – :05 = 6:05 or 6:15 – :10 = 6:05]

Final points to remember about the half marathon:

          Be very patient for the first 4 miles.

          Use the downhill to go faster for miles 5-6-7 but don’t attack this section as much as it’s been recommended in the past.

          The goal is to get to 7 miles around this time with as little effort as possible.

          Almost half the race is on the Great Highway. You can still catch a lot of people and make up a lot of time (if you didn’t go out too hard).

          Negative splits are the key to success in distance races.

          The race starts when you hit the Great Hwy. Do your fastest running then. Start aggressively passing people. Catching and passing people is an exhilarating feeling. Passing the first person is the hardest. Once you pass one person, you’ll then try to pass more. With each person you pass, you’ll feel better and better and the fast pace will become easier and easier.


The 5K is a fun run and the course isn’t certified. That being said, I have run the course and because of the downhill it is a fast course. The 5K course is marked on the above pdf course map with dashed lines.

The start for the 5K and half marathon are at the same time and same place. The 5K course makes a sharp right turn after about 400 meters. Line up on the right side of the start line so you won’t have to cut across traffic to make the turn. Be on the lookout throughout the race to make sure you are on the 5K course! The first mile is pretty flat. The only uphill of any significance is right before the first mile mark as you go from MLK Drive up to Stow Lake. On this course you can really hammer out a fast last mile…which means, don’t be afraid to press the second mile (which also has lots of downhill)….you will have more left at the end than you think….gravity will be your friend and help get you to the finish line.


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