Creating a Goal for the NYC Marathon

Marathon training starts on Monday!!! I am so excited and so nervous to start this journey.  16 weeks from Sunday I will be running 26.2 miles for the first time!

My original plan was to not have any goals at all, but in order to follow my training plan from Run Less, Run Faster, I need a time goal to figure out my paces for the training runs.

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Now, although I am creating a time goal to base my training paces on, I am keeping my expectations of actually achieving that goal to a minimum.  The book has a chart that converts your most recent race finish times into a projected marathon goal time.

Here are my last three race times and the projected marathon goal for each time:

As you can see, my projected marathon time ranges from 4:21:07-4:35:43.  Now, during the Firecracker 5K, I held back the first 2 miles to run with my friend AnnMarie.  The last mile I ran a minute faster than the first two miles and I am pretty sure if I hadn’t held back my finih time would have been closer to the Testaverde.  With this in mind, I decided to make my goal time for the marathon 4:30:00.

I always had this time in the back of my mind as a goal, but I didn’t really want to commit to it and I actually still don’t, but I need a goal time in order to figure out my paces for the training runs.  Ideally, I would like to finish between 4-5 hours, but if I don’t, then that is okay too.  My ultimate goal is to finish.

I wanted to get some opinions from my runner friends on what their goals were for their first marathon and if they had any specific time goals.  Here is what they said:

  • “For the first marathon my goal was to just finish. I estimated my time by doubling my half time and seeing where I was when I did my first 20miler”.  -Kassandra from
  • “I run NYC every year (past 8) and my goal the first time was to cross the finish line. Here’s a little preview for you:”. –Eric from
  • “For my first marathon all I wanted to do was finish, preferably with a smile. I did finish, with a grimace of pain…but I finished! For your first go at the distance I’d say run for the experience, push the pace when you can, take in the crowd support when it hurts and keep moving forward!  Be proud of whatever finish time you earn — if it’s not the time you were secretly hoping for learn what you can from the race and come back for one hell of a redemption marathon! My take on redemption races:”.  -Heidi from
  • “For my first marathon I SAID that all I wanted was to finish, but I really had a goal time of 3:45, which was based on my time in the half. McMillan has charts that can help figure out about what you can do based on any race distance even a 5k (btw I didn’t hit that goal until about my 6th marathon and for my first I ended up just being happy that I finished”.  -Debbie from
  • “I attempted my first marathon last year and while I didn’t get to finish due to dehydration (my first DNF), my goal was simply to cross the finish line no matter how long it took. I did set a very loose goal based on my average pace for my 20 mile run, but I didn’t have my heart set      on that time”. –Mindy from Blog:
  • “I have my review from the race which was not what I planned for that day. NYC marathon is really hard to PR in compared to other races just because of the morning logistics (At least for me\). I base my goals on the amount of time I have to devote to training and the weather. It’s much harder doing speed workouts outside in the winter with ice vs. fall. I also base it on the race. When I run Boston, a home race for me, I stop to take photos and enjoy it so PR is not my main goal unless I’m fit for it. I use my 20 milers to determine my projected race pace. I removed about 30 seconds per mile since I assume I’ll be rested. However, I’m a high mileage runner so I race way faster than I train (on good days)”. -Liana

I am taking the advice of my friends to heart and while I will utilize a 4:30:00 time goal to create pace times for training, my only true goal for the NYC Marathon will be to finish!  I will share more about how I will be training on Monday!

Have you run a marathon?  What were your goals for your first?

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  1. Amanda Ebner says

    you go girl! my goal for my first marathon was to quality for Boston – and I missed it by 5 minutes. for my second one I refined my training plan and BOOM – BQ! I think you’re awesome for starting with a pace goal in mind and I think you should GO GO GO for it!! 4:30 or bust!! :)

  2. says

    I am running my fourth marathon in October, but my first using this program (Run Less, Run Faster) — which I love 3 weeks in… even with a 20 miler hitting me so early on, this weekend. I can’t wait to read what you think of it as you start and continue the program.

    My first marathon I wanted to finish. Period. (Or so what I told people, I really wanted to do sub-5, and came in at 4 hours and 59 minutes — the body achieves what the mind believes. lol.)

    The cool thing about this program is that it lets you reassess your goal the entire training duration. If you can’t keep up the speedwork or paces, then back your goal down; and vice versa. Based on your times, a 4:30 sounds like a great place to start. And regardless of your goal, just know this is a lifechanging experience, you’ll never forget (or regret). Congrats on choosing to start this journey! I’ll be staying tuned!
    Vieve recently posted..Training to Run Less, Run FasterMy Profile

    • Toni Church says

      Thanks so much for the post! I am happy to hear that you love the plan! I am looking forward to checking out your training!

  3. says

    i’ve run two marathons and think that you should use your half marathon time. a half marathon time is going to be the most accurate indication of your potential finish time for a marathon — MUCH more so than a 5k. i would also be flexible within your training. and recognize that the marathon is a very unique beast — a lot can happen over 26.2 miles! train strong and you’ll do great. i’m using RLRF to train for a goal half this fall and love the program!
    Courtney @ Eat Pray Run, DC recently posted..Wedding Wednesday: DIY Program FansMy Profile