Hi Patty. Here is my experience: I am someone who pretty much "goes to war" when I put on a race number; to heck with this "take it easy" stuff!!!!
Remember that there is racing, and there is training. My long runs are sometimes done as slowly as 10 minutes a mile, yet my marathon race paces (save one bad experience when I really crashed hard) have varied between 8:19 and 8:58 per mile (the latter was on a very hot day).
First of all, consider what your milage is. If you are doing 40-50 mpw, you probably *won't* (but could) reach your marathon potential; therefore you'd be wise to set a conservative time goal. But I'd set one nevertheless.
You might use 3:50 as a goal and aim for a 1:55 first half. Resist the temptation to go harder; after a taper, that inital pace will feel like a complete walk. If you are still feeling good at the half, pick it up *slightly*. Then, if you are holding your pace at 20, (32 km) start trying to pick off others!
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