The distance of a half-marathon race is relatively lengthy, nestled between the 10K and a marathon at 13.1 miles. Running a race of this length requires training, endurance, mental toughness, a nutritional strategy and fine-tuning the various aspects of the actual race day, such as pace. Pace is the time it takes to run a mile, which varies for each person depending on many factors. Finding a pace comfortable for your athletic profile based on techniques training experts recommend is important to prevent running too slowly or burning out too quickly.
Lactic Acid Threshold
The lactic acid threshold of a runner is the point before the muscles produce more lactic acid than the blood can efficiently remove, which causes muscle burning and fatigue. The runner with strategy in mind maintains a pace on race day below the threshold to avoid fatigue and muscle burnout, or "hitting the wall." Increasing your lactic acid threshold involves long-distance training and monitoring the way your body feels at different running lengths. Gradually increase your pace in long-distance training runs below the pace that makes you feel fatigued or that burns your muscles. This process may require crossing the threshold a few times before you ensure you know what it feels like. Experiencing the sensation will give you physical incentive to stay below the threshold because you will remember the pain.
The best way to establish a pace for a half-marathon, according to Coach Roy T. Benson in his column for the magazine "Running Times," is to run at least two 10K races, take the average time per mile and add 20 seconds. The formula works out to an appropriate pace for your physical condition as long as you run the 10K races relatively proximal to the half-marathon race.
Break the race into segments. Run the first 10 miles at the established ideal pace, and run the final 3.1 faster, keeping in mind to reserve energy for the final mile, when you will want to shave off seconds of your final run time with a sprint to finish. This relatively simple formula will keep you mentally organized, and prevent other runners from negatively influencing your pace.
Other Runners and Mental Toughness
The runners in your pace group may begin the race at a faster or slower pace than you will. Begin to seek out a group to run with at about the second mile, but resist altering your pace significantly. Increasing your pace early in the race could cause lactic acid accumulation that would be impossible to reverse and could impair your ability to finish the race. Keep yourself motivated with thoughts of previous races or training when you felt similar physical strain or mental discouragement and concentrate on your success overcoming these obstacles. Seek out other runners in your pace group to feel camaraderie until you revive your motivation.