Estimating your finish time

Estimating your finish time for an event you have not done previously.

Relatively common question – “how long do you think my race will take?”
Good question!

The first step is to get an approximate understanding of where an athlete typically finishes in a field.
Start by checking previous results.
In a recent example an athlete tended to finish somewhere around about one third of the way through the field. In a race of 300 athletes they would typically finish around about 100th.

Checking this with a few other standard results (excluding events that the athlete walked with a friend et cetera) you can typically see a pretty reliable repeating pattern.
Assuming fitness is somewhat constant and the athlete hasn’t had outrageous breakthroughs or setbacks, it’s pretty safe to assume the athlete will finish around about one third of the way through the upcoming event.
Potentially a little worse if it is a new/longer distance as the athlete will likely be Conservative and or inexperienced. But you would only add a few percent.
This will give you a pretty reliable prediction of how long the target event will take an athlete unless the course is significantly different to previous years or conditions dictate otherwise.

Generally that athlete will still finish about one third of the way through but in a tough course year that one third will take longer in which instance there is no reliable method to predict finishing time.
This is a reasonable guide for timings through aid stations or for support crews. The slight exception to this is that women are typically more linear (better!) with spend/pacing. Men are more likely to be ahead of estimations early and behind later. There is robust observational analysis behind this but basically many men are dumdums (do better men!).

Forget pace, power, heart rate, after nearly 15 years of coaching this is my most reliable method.