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.
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.
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?