You can be in the best shape of your life, but it all comes down to how you run on race day.

No doubt about, we’re headed into marathon season. Texas is boasting quite a few in October and on into November. There’s the Marathon 2 Marathon in west Texas on October 23; the Arlington Marathon and the Mayor’s Marathon (Lubbock) on October 31; and the Fort Worth Marathon on November 7, to name a few.

Anyone aiming for one of these is pretty much done with their training. But a big variable still remains: race day itself. You can be in the best shape of your life, but it all comes down to how you run on race day. And that calls for both advance planning and implementing a successful race plan on race day.

Get familiar with the course. Knowing the course has a direct relationship with sticking to your goal pace. You’ll be losing some time going uphill but gain it on the downhills. Knowing where these sections occur will allow you to better hit your predicted splits.

Be realistic in your time goal. If your most recent 5K is 20 minutes flat, race predictor charts calculate a 3:15 marathon, which is pretty darn good. However, even a slight change in your pacing can throw a wrench in the works. Shooting for a 3:10 in this instance could cause you to blow up and run a 3:30 instead. And remember, the early miles are going to feel easy. Don’t make the mistake of pushing harder as a result. Oh, and one more thing: take the weather conditions into account. No way are you going to run as fast on a 75 degree day as you would on a 45 degree day!

Pay attention to your splits but tune in to how your body feels too. Checking your watch at every mile marker can actually be incredibly helpful, especially during the first half. Staying on goal pace not only  conserves energy, but serves as a positive mental motivator, a crucial aspect of successful marathoning. During the second half, allow yourself to run more by feel.

That last 10K. Even during your best marathon, there’s going to be considerable fatigue after running 20 miles. The difference between achieving your desired goal and falling apart depends on how disciplined you were during the first 20, and how mentally strong you are during the final six point two miles. However, if you’ve trained and paced properly, you’ll have the confidence to finish strong. Now is the time to really believe in yourself. Sure, it’s a battle between your body wanting you to slow down, and your mind telling you to finish strong. Ultimately, it’s your choice.

Upcoming Races: Saturday, October 23, at 8:00 a.m. the Lockhart Kiwanis 5K Stampede, 315 W. Prairie Lea St. in Lockhart. Sunday, October 24, at 7:00 a.m., the ARC Daisy Dash 5K/10K at Homestead Park, Sunset Valley.