Probably not telling you anything you don't already know ... but the trick to running xxx pace for 26 miles is to plan to run the first ~22 miles at a slightly faster pace and build yourself some cushion so that it's ok to slow down in the last few miles if you're feeling it then. And the other trick is that the race itself will feel surprisingly easy after a good taper.
I gave up street marathons ages ago when I realized that I just couldn't manage to train as much as I felt I needed without getting injured. I did do a couple of them at under 7:00 pace but never managed to qualify for Boston. (Qualifying time back then was 2:50 for open men and I just missed it.)
Have fun. Most of the effort is in the preparation!
Thanks Mitch! That's interesting advice about pacing - most people say to take it out at what feels like a very easy pace. I generally run my races with a faster start, just to build some buffer, and because I'm usually tough enough to hang on, but I've never thought it was a *good* strategy. Have you used this strategy successfully?
I've heard that the last few miles might be pretty sucky.
I came to the realization when I was training for/doing the 50-miler last fall that it's always the last few miles that suck the most. Doesn't matter if you're running 10 or running 50, the mental breakdown of "ooh I'm almost done!" is enough to make the last bit pretty terrible. I remember feeling pretty crappy the last 3-4 miles of a 25-mi run just before the 50, but I breezed through 25 with no problem in the actual race. Which all just goes to show - yeah this stuff has a physical component, but really it's all mental :)
I was in Quebec City a few times this winter, people had very good things to say about the marathon. A few did talk about the challenge of running over the bridge (I think), in that it is one long very gradual climb that really wears on you.
But the poutine afterwards will be worth it.
Ok, yeah, there's a basic difference between pacing for a street marathon and a ski marathon. In the ski marathon if you're competitive you pretty much need to use the Alex strategy of going out hard to get a good position out of the gate. Otherwise you're stuck in traffic.
In a street marathon you want to follow the "most people" advice and take it out at what feels like a very easy pace. The thing is it feels easy because a) you're not gunning for position, and b) you spent the last week tapering and now you're so full of energy that (assuming you've done your homework) your marathon pace will feel easy. You want to hit the first couple of mile marks, look at your watch and say "What? Am I really going this fast? Sure doesn't feel like it. This is going to be a great day!"
So if your goal is to run at an average pace of 7:29 then don't go out at 7:29. (And don't go out at 6:45 either.) Pick something like 7:15 or 7:20 or whatever you like. But if it doesn't feel easy at the beginning then you're probably not going to like what happens next.
The 1st marathon I ran I breezed through it in under 3:00 and never suffered at all, even at the end. So maybe I paced too conservatively but I didn't want to be one of those people who really dies at the end in my first one. The last one I did I really wanted to break 2:50 and about mid-way through I realized that the group I was in wasn't on pace to make it. There was a significant headwind (which is why there were groups) and I said "shoot" or something like that and took off. I thought I was running alone but 5 miles later I looked back and the group was still there, just all strung out behind me. I was hoping to catch another group and sit in but that's a lot easier in a bike race than on foot. ;-) Anyway I did some real suffering in that one and still missed my goal.
And yeah, the last few miles can hurt, though if you put in your miles and do the shorter faster races along the way they don't necessarily have to.
Figure the 20 mile mark is halfway mentally and physically.