Finding and Honing Your Pace

Last week I did a post on negative splits and when to use them.  I received several questions from runners who are struggling to either find the pace they should be running at or are working towards consistently running at that pace.

Let me be the first to say that running a consistent pace is yet another art within running.  It can take years to perfect, and even then, it will likely change somewhat on a daily basis.  Factors such as weather, wind, time of day, what you ate, how much you slept, and your mood can affect your run.  On warmer days, you will likely run 10-30 seconds slower than your average pace (and forget about HOT days!).  I also once read that while you can run with the wind and pick up the pace, you will never be able to use that in a race to make up for the loss of speed when running against the wind.

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The best place to start with this is to use a pace calculator.  I recommend using this online calculator.  The first step is to determine a goal pace for an upcoming race.  This can be difficult and I often get requests for paces that are unrealistic compared to previous races.  You cannot take a 5k result and multiply it by 4 to determine your half marathon goal.  Using a pace calculator will give you a much better and realistic idea.

Once you plug in the numbers and get your race goal, you can then use those numbers to figure out a goal pace as well as base and speed work paces.  You can also use this pace calculator to figure out what paces you should be doing your different training runs at.  Your base will be much slower than what your race day goal is (likely a even a minute per mile slower).  This is a speed that will cover the majority of your runs and the main focus is to build endurance, train your body to use fuel more efficiently, and strengthen you.

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If you find that your numbers are all over the place and you want to aim for more consistency, I recommend utilizing a track and your GPS or even a good old fashioned stop watch.  Then I would suggest trying the following:

1 mile (4 laps) at goal base pace

2 x 800 (2 laps) meters at goal pace

4 x 400 (1 lap) meters at goal pace

Try doing this workout once or twice a week and aiming for a consistent goal pace for each set.  Ideally you will take your goal pace and break it into segments.  Divide your pace in half for 800’s and quarter your pace for 400’s.  By doing these in smaller increments you can take some time to find that tempo you are looking for.  Soon, your body will be able to feel this pace a lot better.

Keep in mind that this is not speed work.  While you are doing a workout on the track, you are aiming to find consistency within your running.  The goal is to run at a steady state throughout.  Between each set, I would aim for a walking break of approximately 1/2 a track.

Within a few weeks, you should find that your pace will start to even out a bit and you will have a better sense of what speed you are running without glancing at your watch.

How do you work towards consistency?

12 thoughts on “Finding and Honing Your Pace

  1. I like to mix up whether or not I pay attention to my GPS. This is easy in the winter when it is too cold to have my arm exposed. I also like to use the HRM on my Garmin FR225 to try to push running my effort and seeing how it works on pace (which of course depends on all that stuff you talked about!).

  2. Absolutely so important to nail down target paces based on goal pace but one concept that I’ve been thinking about recently is that target paces for workouts could potentially change during a training cycle, especially if it is a long training plan. For example, in a marathon plan, I would expect that over the course of the 12-16 cycle, improvements in fitness and stamina would result in faster paces at the various prescribed workouts. As a coach, how would you go about accounting for the improved pace dynamic in your clients? Would you stay with the consistent target paces that you set up in week 1 based on race goal or do you adjust as the plan proceeds?

    • That is an excellent question and one that I was just discussing with a client. Over the course of a 14-18 week training plan you will speed up. It likely won’t be a huge increment if you have been running for a long time and you will see adjustments over the course of training. Hopefully if you are at this point in your running, like yourself, you have learned what your everyday pace is. Then as you continue to improve you will be able to honestly see for yourself that your comfortable pace has shaved a few seconds off. You can make adjustments for your plan accordingly and new races will also shed light on where your times and goals should be heading.

  3. I think training with a GPS watch (which definitely has its pros and cons) has helped to keep more consistent to a pace. I think it takes a while to learn to “run by feel” and stay really in tune with your body, your breathing, your effort. Then adjust your paces (as you suggested) according to the weather, wind, terrain, and if you have any illnesses going on.

  4. I’ve been practicing running by my body’s cues and it has helped me with pacing and negative splitting. I try not to look so much at my watch but I do like that I have that if I feel like I need to check things out.

    I ran an unofficial 5k at 23:46 (and 23:55 official) and when I plugged it in to Hanson’s converter it says a 3:50 marathon. That freaks me out. It excites me, but freaks me out.

    • Seriously, I don’t know how I missed this comment. That is pretty awesome and I don’t think a 3:50 is outside of your ability at all. When I do longer distances I do prefer to use longer race calculations for a bit more reliability. But you certainly can’t argue with the Hanson’s. I say, go get it!

  5. When I’m training, I establish my running paces by running a 5k (distance is programmed into my Garmin FR620, programming includes a 15 min WU and a 10 min CoolDown), recording the time, entering the time into a Daniel’s Running Calculator, and letting the calculator provide me with an indication of my current fitness and with running paces. Then, every 4-6 weeks thereafter, I repeat that to re-establish updated running paces to keep my training paces commensurate with my improving fitness. It seems to have been working; but, I’m open to comments and contrary opinions.

    Raymond

    • I am a huge fan of Daniels and will by no means argue with that technique. As long as you aren’t “racing” that 5k distance and are using it to establish where you are, I think that is a fantastic plan. Very smart.

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