Does marathon speed work need to be at my actual 5k-10k pace or the equivalent?

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You might find yourself in a situation where you plug in a goal marathon time and the training paces for speed, which represent 5k to 10k race pace, don’t line up with what you have actually raced. What should you do?

If your actual race pace is slower than what is suggested based on your goal time, then I would usually have the athlete do the slower pace. Why? Well, we aren’t necessarily trying to improve top 5k speed during the marathon as it’s just not the priority of the segment. Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you are attempting to race some 5k’s over a summer period, then jump into a marathon plan of 12-14 weeks, then yes, you might want to do some work at the faster paces. Even then, I wouldn’t do all of it at that faster pace. I’d work into it over the course of the training. That could be gradually running faster during the workout individually or ratcheting down the pace a little bit every week. However, for the most part, I err on the side of caution and use the slower paces, especially if the runner doesn’t race shorter distances and considers speed work a necessary evil. 

If your race pace is faster than then the suggested pace, then you have a choice. If you have raced those paces recently, say within 6 months, then sure, I think stick with those paces. If you don’t race often or are new to the marathon, you need to be careful. Personally, I’d test it out. Start out at the slower, suggested pace and see how that feels. Once you get into the 600’s and 800’s if it’s still pretty comfy, ratchet the pace down a little. For example, if there was a 10 second per mile difference between the suggested and actual pace, cut that in half and see how you feel. The same exceptions would apply as already stated. 

As you can tell, for the marathon segment, I am fairly conservative with the speed paces overall. For the marathon, the risk isn’t really worth a minimal reward. What I would do after the marathon segment, is work on the race distance you need to in order to get those paces a little more in line with each other. 

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