How Fast Will You Be at Marine Corps Marathon Tomorrow?

Oorah and greetings to MCM runners. Tomorrow is going to be a great day for a beautiful marathon experience. However, the same sunny, warm weather that will bring out big crowds will also keep temperatures a little on the warm side. Most of us will be a little slower as a result. Veterans are familiar with the course, but beginners will be pleased (by which I mean surprised) to find a fairly substantial climb only a mile and a half into the course. There’s another good one up Rock Creek Parkway further into the race. There are nice downhills following each of the climbs, but you never gain as much on the descent as you lose in the climb. Do not make the mistake of attacking the climbs to maintain flatland pace! Maintain flatland pace effort, and slow as much as that requires. You will run a faster race if you don’t blow excess energy trying to be a hard-ass on the first hill, I promise.

One main reason I developed Run Ranger, my running app, was to be able to calculate an adjusted pace or effort for races which aren’t typically flat and fast. In other words, if I am confident I can run a 3:00 marathon on a flat course on a cool day, what should my time and pace look like on a slightly warm day on the Marine Corps Marathon course?

Windows Phone users can calculate this on their own, but others can’t, so I figured I’d help folks out by posting the likely time and pace adjustment that tomorrows heat and hills will bring. Be aware, however, that the forecast is calling for fairly significant (15 mph) winds as well. It’s not possible to model the effect this will have on runners, but if you don’t work well with others and butt heads with the breeze on your own for significant mileage, you will be much, much slower than you like. If you are willing to take advice from a guy who’s done 60 of these things:

Be like Marines out there and work together to battle the common challenge: the wind.


Without (much) further ado, here are the tables showing the expected offset that the average runner will get running in tomorrow’s heat on Marine Corps Marathon’s hills. If you are highly acclimatized to heat and hills, you won’t feel the full brunt of the offset. If you usually run in Alaska and a highway overpass seems like a hill to you, things will probably be worse.

I’ve used my running software’s satellite-corrected elevation data from last year’s course, which has a tiny bit more climb and descent than this year’s. For temperatures, I’ve estimated an average based on available weather forecasts for the hourly temperature increases. You will notice that I’ve inched the temperature up slightly for each successive time, because those runners will be running in warmer conditions than those who finish early.

If you are pushing to beat one of these arbitrary times tomorrow, keep in mind that it is going to be a lot of extra work, so you will need to bring your best attitude and stay focused to get it done.

3:00 Hour Runners can expect about a 7 second per mile penalty from heat and hills.

3:30 Runners can expect an 8 second / mile penalty, about 3 and ¾ minutes total.

4:00 Hour Runners are looking at about an 11 second / mile penalty, or 4 and 3/4 minutes total.

4:30 Runners are looking at about 13 seconds / mile, or almost 6 minutes total.

5:00 Hour Runners should expect about 16 seconds / mile, or 7 minutes total.

5:30 runners should expect about 20 seconds / mile penalty, or 8 and a half minutes total.


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