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Marathoning made easy

Or at least endurable, by keeping to a realistic pace

By
5:11pm, October 21, 2010

A marathoner’s worst nightmare — hitting “the wall” — may be completely avoidable if athletes adhere to personalized pace limits proposed by a biomedical engineer and runner. Benjamin Rapoport’s mathematical formula, published online October 21 in PLoS Computational Biology, shows the speediest pace any marathoner can sustain for the entire race.

“A 10-second difference in pace per mile could make the difference between success and a dramatic failure,” says Rapoport, of Harvard Medical School and MIT, who experienced his own traumatic wall splat in the 2005 New York City Marathon. He started out pushing too hard, he says, and was out of steam by the last few miles. Rapoport finished, but with a slower time than he wanted.

To avoid this scenario, a runner has to maintain a pace that conserves carbohydrates, the body’s main source of quick-burn energy, all the way to mile 26.2. Rapoport calculates the id

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