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This is a workout for 2-3 weeks before your goal marathon. So if you’re currently constructing a training plan for a fall or winter marathon, this is an excellent workout to schedule as one of the last big sessions to conclude the block.

Warning: Summertime is likely too hot for long, high-intensity workouts. Consider shorter sessions that focus on speed building.

Read on if you’re ready to chop wood, carry water, and consistently show up.

10 x 10 secs Over and Under Marathon Pace Workout

Workout description

Depending on your experience and fitness level, the workout should last 1-1.5 hours or 10-20 km.

Alternate 1 km at 10 seconds faster than goal marathon pace and 1 km at 10 seconds slower than goal marathon pace.

For example, if you are attempting a sub-3:30 marathon, your average pace should be 5 minutes per km. Therefore, your paces for this workout are 4:50 per km for the ons and 5:10 per km for the “offs” (I mean, it’s not really off since you’re still running near marathon effort).

Although the name of the workout says ten repetitions, most non-elite runners should aim for 5-8 repetitions or about one hour. I’ve only done this session twice, and both times I maxed out at eight reps. After that, I was unable to maintain the correct paces.

Benefits of the workout:

  1. Including warm-up and cool-down, this session combines both distance and threshold intensity.
  2. It’s a race predictor.
  3. For undulating marathon courses or runners planning to race a marathon, it’s good practice for the pace and intensity changes while still averaging the goal pace.
  4. I’m not gonna lie. This is a tough one. Embrace it. Build character and mental toughness.


When should you do this workout?

This is a workout reserve for advanced runners during the peak of a training block. Schedule this session no later than two weeks prior to race day. It’s a big one, so be sure to leave enough days to recover and taper properly.


What is the correct effort?

By the time you do this workout, you should be fit and have a reasonably good idea of your marathon time goal. Hitting the right pace is essential for this workout since it also doubles as a race result predictor.

If a reasonable time goal is determined, simply use the average goal pace and minus 10 seconds for the on, and add 10 seconds for the off.

When you can no longer maintain the effort required to be in the vicinity of the intended paces, it’s time to end the session. For most non-elite runners, it’s somewhere in the 1-hour range.

Workout tip: With a reasonable goal marathon time, the on segments should be your threshold pace, a familiar effort if your training incorporates threshold runs (and you definitely should).

How to do this workout?

Step 1

Jog 15-20 minutes. Always warm-up. 

Step 2 

Dynamic stretching and form drills. A simple Internet search will give you a wide array of instruction videos and articles. There are too many to choose from, so don’t complicate things by attempting to do 20-30 different exercises. 

A 5-10 minute routine that activates the muscles and loosens things up is all I’m aiming for. 

Step 3

Start with 3-5 km at an easy effort, about 30-50 seconds slower than your marathon pace. Gradually rev up your engine.  

Step 4 

Begin workout. 

10 x 10 seconds faster than marathon pace + 10 seconds slower than marathon pace. 

You can either start with the on or the off.  

Step 5 

3-5 km at an easy effort, about 30-50 seconds slower than your marathon pace. Gradually reduce pace. 

Step 6

10 minutes cool-down jog.   

Step 7

Replenish lost nutrients for recovery within 30-40 minutes post-workout. For example, a protein bar, electrolyte drink, or a proper nutrient-rich meal. 



Last words of advice:

  1. We want to reiterate that this is an advanced workout for experienced runners that are in shape and have developed a good sense of when to push and when to hold back. 
  2. As mentioned, ten repetitions are too many for most runners. So repeat until you can no longer hold pace. 
  3. It’s okay to be just a few seconds off pace. But when you’re off by more than 10 seconds, it’s time to end the workout. For most runners, that’s around one hour. 
  4. And if you go too fast in the beginning, completing the session will be difficult. Get into a rhythm and hit the paces to the best of your ability. 
  5. Interestingly, some of you will find the off parts more challenging. 
  6. The workout’s average pace (excluding the easy efforts, warm-up, and cool-down) predicts what you will likely average on race day.