Boston Marathon Pace CalculatorDevelop the perfect Boston Marathon race strategy by calculating your exact splits for every mile

The Boston Marathon Pace Calculator will help you establish the perfect target race pace over the fabled Boston Marathon hills. The pace calculator will help ensure that all of your hard training for race day isn’t wasted with a poor race strategy.

The Boston Marathon Pace calculator uses the grade and length of each hill on the course to assign each mile a score for difficulty. The ease or difficulty of each mile is then extrapolated to the target pace per mile to ensure an even effort.

The calculator will help make sure that you don’t go out over your head during the fast early miles and allow you to attack the hills and the last 10k of the course.

Plug your goal race time into the pace calculator and get yourself off on the right foot!

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My suggested race strategy

Miles 1 to 8

These early miles lead to the demise of most runners. DO NOT BE FAST. I don’t care how good you feel or how fast everyone else around you is running. The easiest way to ruin your race is to go out fast these miles. The downhills make it super easy to go over your head and thrash your legs before the hills and the last 10k. DO NOT GO OUT FAST.

In addition to running the first 3-4 miles  conservatively, it is important that you stay relaxed while running in the big crowds and passing runners that you need to go around. Surging past slower runners and getting uncomfortable in the tight crowds is an easy way to ruin your race. All the surges and stopping and starting requires a lot of energy. Energy = fuel, so the more energy and fuel you burn up during the first few miles, the less you’ll have over the last 10k.

When the race starts, relax and go with the flow until a natural opening  for running appears. As we’ve planned already, you’re going to be a little slow for the first few miles anyway, so take a deep breath and focus on relaxing.

The first part of the course looks easy, but the downhills pound the heck out of your quads and there are a few uphills that will suck the life out of your legs the last 10k.

I know it’s tough not to think that you should be putting time in the bank with the downhills, but it’s the worst strategy you could use. Instead, think of it as putting energy in the bank. Why?

  1. By running slower, you conserve critical fuel and energy you’ll need the last 10k. Just like a car, the faster you run, the more fuel you burn. Almost everyone has seen the effects of fuel consumption while driving at 80mph versus 55mph. Your body reacts in a similar way. When you run over your marathon pace you start to burn significantly more carbohydrates. Similarly, as I discussed earlier, weaving in and out of other runners the first few miles, which tends to happen more with runners who go out too fast, is like driving your car in the city. We all know cars get significantly reduced miles per gallon while driving in the city. Your body is the same way.
  2. Running slower gives your body a better chance to absorb and take on fuel and fluids. Your body can store enough fuel to run about 2 hours at marathon pace. This means you’ll need to take on a lot of extra carbohydrates during you run. Unfortunately, your body has a difficult time digesting the carbohydrates you take in while running. The best way to combat this unfortunate bodily function (besides practicing taking gels and fluids in practice) is to take on carbohydrates in fluids early in the race when your body is feeling good and not stressed. If you started the race a little slower, you’ll have a chance to absorb more of the nutrition you take on board.
  3. It will save your quads for the Newton Hills and the downhills after Newton. The last 5 miles of the course are all downhill. So, why do runners look like they are doing the skeleton dance and have to walk most of this section? Because their quads are so fried from the downhills they can’t run.

Miles 8 to 16 – 7:05-7:10

The course starts to flatten out a little during these miles and the crowds thin out a bit. Once the field starts to spread out, start looking around and engage the competitors around you. Find a group that is running your pace or a little faster and latch on. Try to relax and keep your focus on staying with the group, not your splits. Use the group and the people around you to help you relax and take your mind of the distance ahead.

The focus here should be on relaxing and giving yourself a mental break. Checking splits and worrying about pace is mentally draining. Use this section to find a group, relax and conserve your mental energy for Newton.

Don’t get sucked into the crowds. Use them for support when you’re having a rough patch, but don’t surge when the girls at Wellesley roar. Stay calm, relaxed, and on pace.

Miles 16 to 21  – EFFORT on the hills (don’t look at pace)

Time to go to work…conservatively. The hills are certainly tough, but the trick is to remain calm and relaxed.

The secret to running the hills well is maintaining a consistent effort.

Coming off the relatively flat portion of the course, you should have a pretty good idea of what your pace will feel like. When you go up the hill, maintain the same effort and don’t worry about slowing down.

It’s inevitable that you will slow down, so relax and roll with the punches.

Likewise, don’t try to make up the time on the downhill after the uphill portion. This will fry your quads, which is why heartbreak hill is so infamous. Heartbreak itself is really not that tough of a hill, but it’s because of where it sits on the course, after a series of rollers and right at the 20 mile mark, that it can be difficult. People that fail on heartbreak hill do so because they get antsy and try to make up time on the downhills after the rollers.

Biggest tip: Don’t worry about pace, just maintain an even effort and put your head down.

Mile 21 to Finish – Pace  = crush it as fast as you can!

Time to give it everything you have and use the downhills as best you can. The last 5 miles are predominantly downhill, and while that might seem awesome, your quads will be very tired of the pounding, so they are going to hurt like heck.

Remember this, visualize it over the next few days, and be mentally prepared.

  • Keep you mind and body relaxed. Look within yourself and focus on you. Think confident thoughts and repeat confident mantras to yourself; “I am fast, this feels good” or “I am strong, I’m running great”. Every time you feel tired or feel the pace slip, repeat to yourself that you need to refocus and concentrate and get back on pace.
  • Often times, I’ll watch a video of fast marathon runners and when I start to hurt, I’ll imagine myself running like them. Good form – head straight, arms swinging forward and back slightly, powerful strides. Just having the mental imagery of good form helps me maintain my pace when the muscles become increasingly tired with each step.
  • If the pace starts to slip, I’ll throw in a surge to get my legs fired up again. Sometimes all it takes is a small burst of speed to reinvigorate your legs and pace. Since you’ve done surges during your long run, this will be just like practice for you.
  • Finally, I try to break the remaining distance into bite size and easily digestible pieces. After doing lots of hard training runs, I’ll break the race up into one of my best previous workout sessions. For example, if I had a great 2 x 3 mile session, I’ll remember how it felt and think to myself, “hey, I did this workout before, let’s get back on pace and do it again”. Likewise, sometimes a mile can seem like a long distance, so I’ll break it down into a time instead. Thinking I only have 3-4 minutes until I hit the halfway point of a mile makes it seem a lot easier. 4 minutes is nothing.

With 1 or 2 miles to go, keep your head up and start to try and catch people in front of you. Pick one person and focus solely on reeling them in, nothing else. As you pass them, surge and put your eyes on the next person and repeat. Imagine tying a fishing line to their back and reeling them in. this will take your mind off the tiredness in the legs. Kick hard the last mile and finish fast!

Read more of our Boston Marathon specific articles:

How to eat for Boston Marathon’s 10am start time

What elite runners can teach you about the marathon taper

How to Train for and Race the Boston Marathon Course: Interview with BAA Coach Terry Shea

The Science of Hill Running and How It Impacts Your Race Times

4 Key Workouts to Prepare for the Boston Marathon Course

3 Race Day Quirks You Must Prepare for in the Final Weeks of Boston Marathon Training