I agree with the other respondants who have stated to run evenly. My first two marathons I ran poorly by going out too hard. In particular, at Jersey Shore I was running a 7:00 pace for the first 18-miles. The last 8-miles were at about 8:30 pace. Though it felt good for the first 18 (didn't feel like I was pushing it), the pace took its toll on me (as did the bright sunshine and heat).
One of the respondants mentioned that it should feel as easy as walking. At NYC this year I ran a very evenly paced race going out at 7:25 pace for the first half and averaging 7:35 for the last half. Though my Jersey Shore race had a faster finish time, the NYC race just felt better by being able to run the entire distance at a smart pace.
The NYC marathon site had excellent tips about race pace, hydration, etc. In particular, they stated that a lot of people said they felt good until 18 miles when everything just fell apart. They mentioned that for most people saying this it was the result of going out too hard (10 seconds a mile difference in pace makes the world of difference). In addition, much energy is expended in the first 2-miles as the body has nit warmed up. Don't try to meet any pace goals. If you want to average 7:45 for the race, don't try to go faster than 8:00 for the first 2. After your body warms up the 7:45 will feel great. If you try to run 7:45 at the outset, you won't feel that fresh for the remainder of the race. And don't worry about 30 seconds difference in your time if you go out at 8:00. Somewhere along the line you will pick up those 30 seconds. And if you don't, chances are that you will finish better than if you had gone out too hard.
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