Race Day: Start Slow

Race Day: Start Slow | 22 of 26 Marathon Series

Last updated on March 12th, 2018 at 02:15 pm

Ask a group of wise runners for marathon pacing advice and you’ll soon find one tip consistent across most experienced runners. Start slowly!

This is pretty sound advice for pretty much all races, not just the marathon, but here’s the reasons why:

1. Calm the Nerves

Tensions may be running high at the start of the race and that extra adrenaline will naturally lead to you overpacing if you don’t make a conscious effort to slow down and pace yourself according to your pre-race plan. Overpacing will lead to early fatigue, which you obviously cannot afford; so you need to make sure you keep yourself in check.

2. Physiology

When you run faster than your ideal marathon pace, you’ll be exceeding your lactate threshold. When you do this you will accumulate lactate, which makes most of the metabolic processes less efficient; therefore for the rest of the race you’ll burn glycogen quicker than if you hadn’t started quickly, because your cellular processes will have changed.

Cellular Physiology


Lactate won’t disperse until you start recovering so once you accumulate lactate you’re stuck with it for the race; unless you fancy stopping for a chill out!


3. Tried and Tested

It’s a tried and tested strategy that most runners use to make it through the marathon. Speak to any experienced marathon runner and they’ll tell you how starting slightly slower will keep you feeling good for longer. Most recent marathon world records have also followed the negative split pacing method; however what we’re talking about here isn’t running the whole first half slower, just the first couple of miles; just to allow you to settle in and find your feet.

4. Volume of Runners

Too many runners

As you may already know, the start of a race can be frustrating, even if you have been put in the correct corral (if there is one) you’ll still find there are a lot of runners around you and inevitably some of them will get in your way. To help reduce this stress, slow down and let the pack thin out, just remind yourself the real reason you’re slowing down is for performance, otherwise you’ll feel like you’re being overtaken by loads of people of a similar ability; which can be demotivating and distracting.

So it’s a good idea to run the first couple of miles a bit slower, at the end of the day you’re not really here to break records, you’re here to run a marathon and enjoy it. We discussed pacing strategies in better detail in blog 20 of this series so if you missed that article have a read. If you have any experiences or extra advice for our readers, don’t hesitate to add your comments below:

Here is the next blog article in our marathon series:

23. Race Day: Split the Race into Segments

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Ryan Tooes
Ryan has worked in the sports industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience across most subjects. Ryan holds a BSc in microbiology and has studied sports physiology in great detail in his own time. His main areas of specialisation are: footwear construction, footwear technology, strength & conditioning and anatomy & physiology. He splits his 13 hours a week exercise between, Kickboxing, MMA, Crossfit, Rock Climbing and Running.