Setting a Race Time Goal

Recently, I came across a post from (also, Dorothy the face of the Saucony Find Your Strong project). She's a blogger and running coach, and she wrote about using the McMillan Running Calculator to help determine goal times for races. I've never used this before, so this got me thinking. What are my equivalent times? What really is a reasonable goal time for my June marathon? 

Of course, I've had a time in mind for June for a while now, and that time is 5 hours. I secretly hope this time is high, but knowing how rough things were in Chicago I wanted to give myself some slack. I also know that my 21-miler time in Big Sur would extrapolate to a 5 hour marathon, but that course was super hard and I ran slower than normal long runs there.

So, what is this MacMillan Running Calculator you ask? It's a website that allows you to enter your current time or goal time, and it outlines equivalent paces for different race distances. It also outlines suggested training paces for your race goal. In a second post, Mile-Posts mentions why she uses her goal time and not current time. For my purposes, I'm basing my marathon goal off of my current half marathon time. I have a whole separate printout for my half marathon goal time!

My half marathon PR is 2:10:07, a pace of 9:56 per mile. I feel good about using this time because I ran pretty darn close to it 2 other times recently. Based on this, my other paces should be:

5K 28:09, 9:04 per mile
10K 58:28, 9:24 per mile
Marathon 4:34:25, 10:29 per mile

This is within 10 seconds of my 5K PR. I haven't run a 10K in the last 2 years other than the Turkey Trot that bottlenecked at the end and prevented running to the finish, so I can't say I have an accurate view of my 10K time right now. My PR is 1:04:07 from 2009, at which time my half PR was 2:26. (But I'll be running one this weekend, we shall see...) 

Do I think I can run a 4:34 marathon? I should say yes, I am going for it, I am confident! In reality I don't feel quite that confident, but it's nice to know how my times project to the marathon distance. 

The McMillan site also suggests training paces for types of runs, and I fall very well within the training paces to reach this 4:34 goal, at the faster end in most cases.

Long Runs 10:59-11:59 per mile
Easy Runs 10:59-11:29 per mile
Steady-state Runs 9:56-10:14 per mile
Tempo Runs 9:32-9:56 per mile

If not this time, I will eventually shoot for this time goal and try to push myself harder. I'm very much a cautious, make-sure-to-finish-and-save-energy person even in races so time goals take some mental work. Especially because of my Chicago experience, Seattle may need to be more of a finish goal than a time goal, a redo of my first marathon if you will. After I feel even a bit comfortable with the distance, I can work on time goals.

Last, I have to share an awesome photo that was posted to Facebook by Nathan Performance Gear today. I find it incredibly accurate.

Who doesn't want pancakes? Or at least some food that you particularly crave during a long run. Mine is
beer. There is something refreshing about beer and its carbonation, with a little bitterness in the hops. I have trouble eating solid foods for a while after a long run, so I guess beer is my body's replacement. Interestingly enough, I don't even drink beer that often if it's not following a hard run!

How do you set your goal times? What is your hard workout food craving? Leave it in the comments, I'd love to know!


  1. Hooray for doing the exact same thing I did last week! Instead of putting in a current time though, I put in my goal time, so I can train for it! Lol. Not sure if that is the appropriate way to do it or not, but it is the approach that I am taking. :-) Now, that we are through all of that, let's go for our goals!

    1. I did the same, Emily! I was happy to see my 5K time fit perfectly with it - though my 10K/10 Miler were a little off (though I haven't run a 10 miler in over a year, they did project pretty close to my time goal for the race I planned to run in April). The MacMillan training paces are pretty close to the paces suggested by my training plan so I'm feeling pretty good about it all :)
      Good luck with your training!

    2. I think that makes a lot of sense too, using your goal pace. I am doing it that way to help training paces for improving my half marathon time!

  2. I LOVE that photo. I posted it on facebook a few months ago, when I was in the midst of my long run marathon training. It is just so accurate. My mind is so fuzzy by mile 18. I had planned on using that McMillian calculator to increase my 1/2 marathon speed this summer, but my foot has some Plantar Fasciitis going on and so the training has been pushed off for a while. I've heard good things about it. I just don't know if I can slow my long run pace down to what they recommend. I don't doubt that you run that time, but if you haven't ran at those recommended paces during your training, it might not be easy. But if those are around your pace times, then you should be set! The good thing is that this is your 2nd marathon, so you know what to expect and you can really challenge yourself if you want. =)

  3. I just started using the McMillan calculator myself. I have NO idea what a reasonable time goal for my first full in July is, so it's come in handy. I don't have an "official" time goal for the marathon, my goal is primarily to finish, but it's nice to know what kind of pace I COULD run. I've been keeping the training paces in mind as well.

    And can I just say beer after a long run = heaven!

  4. Hi Paulette! We're not that far off with our own training paces! Given the distance of the marathon, a lot of things are let up to chance so I don't really hold a lot of credit in the calculator. In good conditions, yes, I think it's doable! Most marathons have hiccups though. I think the goal training paces are helpful.

    I LOVE the photo!! HILARIOUS.

    1. Just from my one marathon so far - definitely get the hiccups part! I think I'll need a couple more before I really feel comfortable.

  5. Hi Paulette,

    You know me..I've been using the calculators since day one. ;)
    They work really well for shorter races but can be optimistic for the marathon.

    My half time was 1:51:xx but my marathon times were more like 4:15 than the 3:5x that the calculators said. This is actually pretty typical for new marathoners.

    Eventually I learned (with jill's help) that speedwork, hill sprints, strength training , drills etc are essential..not just racking up miles.

    I finally got to the point where my marathon time was the same as predicted by the calculators 8/

    1. Good to know! I think 4:34 is really aggressive for me, especially in just my second marathon. I was totally surprised by that number. I do hill work and strength training, but I need to add more speedwork. I figure I'll get through this marathon and go from there with real time goals! Unless I happen to feel really on that day or something.

  6. I use the McMillan calculator and find it pretty accurate and do-able. I'm working off the latest 5k PR time that I trained in winter for, so the marathon time appears more of a challenge. I guess that would be the same as entering a goal time. It means knocking 20 minutes off my last 26.2, which seems realistic. Weekly Intervals and repeat workouts are really helpful.


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