You’ll want to go out fast. Stomp across the start line as the gun sounds and immediately accelerate to eighth gear. In just a few dozen steps your blood should be heated to a roiling boil and your quads should be pumping like oil derricks in an Arctic refuge.
By mile three you should be flying. Your internal temperature should be set to “Pizza Oven.” At this point, you’re going to want to pick up the pace.
From miles five through seven you should increase your stride rate to let your hip flexors know what’s what. To a casual observer, you should look like you’re being chased by a three-year-old whose parents you want to impress for some reason.
Around the seven-mile marker you’ll want to start accelerating. Fall in for a few strides behind a racer who looks stronger than you, then blaze past them, yelling, “Pleasant day for a stroll, eh Jeeves! Just kidding, you’re doing great!” Feel free to customize.
You should appear blurry to people cheering along the sidelines, a colored streak of grit and elbows. You’re already a quarter of the way through the race, and you should be gunning it well beyond any pace you ran during training. Remember: nothing soothes burning calves like a bit of mid-marathon sprinting.
“What if I run out of fuel?” you might ask. “What if I bonk?” Easy: don’t. At mile 12, slam a couple gels, splash sports water on your temples, and start trying. Remember, it’s called “VO2” max for a reason. If you finish a marathon with a single drop of VO2 left in your veins, you didn’t give it your max.
Mile 13 is the halfway point. Check your watch to gauge your performance and check your shoes to gauge if you’re still wearing some. If you’re behind your goal race pace, you’ll want to start running faster. If you’re ahead, it means you underestimated yourself and should be embarrassed. Double your speed and say a few Hail Marys in contrition.
From miles 14 through 20 you should be going a few tilts past full. You’ll be sweating harder than you’ve ever sweated, sucking air like a leaf blower in reverse and making much more noise. Your lungs should be on fire—that’s a sure sign you’re ripping it. It will all be worth it when you taste that free yogurt at the finish line.
Mile 20 is when things get serious. Marathoners know it’s the real halfway point, where you find out if your training and nutrition were dialed in. At mile twenty I recommend you really start to go. Imagine you’re Eliud Kipchoge or Mary Keitany or Tom Cruise. Smile like you’re pretending to enjoy it and chase down that CGI helicopter.
At mile 25, throw caution to the wind. And your hat, which has been slowing you down. You’ve only got a mile left, it’s time to summon the kick you’ve been hiding from your conscious self. Get into your flow state, zone in and out simultaneously, and transmute into a being of pure energy in short shorts whose hip flexors are not currently a 20 on a 10-point pain scale.
Open up the quad throttle, lay down a patch, and stomp wildly all the way across the finish line. Grab your finisher’s medal and don’t stop until you hit the yogurt table. Hell, take two yogurts. You’ve earned them.