What Should Be My Running Pace?

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Running Training Article - What Should Be My Running Pace
















The importance of setting a running pace during your training and/or race is the difference between running a personal record or falling short of your running goal.  Many new runners fail to set a running pace time for themselves when training and their races that they run.  Most runners who don't set a running pace, usually run faster at the beginning of the race, then slow down at the end, thereby minimizing their running performance.

When you set a running pace, you are maximizing your running performance.  Your body will be more in equilibrium and your body will burn the calories and carbohydrates more efficiently.  There is empirical evidence that setting a running pace, maximizes your performance and will give you the best running time.

On long runs such as 10ks, half marathons and full marathons, you can run your best times when you set a running pace.  It is best to run a negative split on these long runs.  A negative split means you run slower the first of the race than your normal running pace and run faster in the second half of the race.   Learning to pace yourself when running isn’t something that comes easy.   It takes countless miles on the road and laps around the track to develop an inherent sense of pace.   Here are some tips that might help you.


How to Practice a Run Pace

In order to improve your ability to pace yourself, you simply must practice – it’s as simple as that.  To practice your running pace, it is helpful to understand what is going on in the body.   A runner can run at his or her lactate threshold pace for about an hour or a little more.   Most runners can run a 10k at a pace faster than their lactate threshold (if they are finishing in less than an hour). This means that lactic acid will be accumulating throughout the run, and a slight increase in blood lactate will occur throughout the race. Running faster than goal pace will cause an unsustainable increase in lactic acid, and the only way to clear the additional lactic acid is to slow down.  This lactic acid interferes with muscle contraction and exhibits a classic negative feedback loop, limiting force production.


Putting it into Practice

So how do you run a negative split for half and full marathons?   When you run a half or full marathon race, you must have a goal time in mind.   Your previous races and workouts are your best reference points.  If you don't know what to use as a goal, start recording your training and race results so you can develop a concept of pacing!

If your goal is to run a half marathon in 2 hours and 10 minutes, you should be running a 9:55 mile (9 minutes and 55 seconds per mile).  The hardest part for most runners is to hold back during the first half of the race when they are highly motivated, perceived effort is lower than usual, and everyone is running fast.   You need to hold back, follow your plan, and you will have a much easier time hitting your goal.  You are really racing against the clock, so don't let other runners distract you.  Most of them won't have a plan to run their optimum time, and it doesn't make sense to follow them.   You can bet that if the others aren't running away from you in the first quarter mile then you went out too fast.

If you are going to run a 9:55 per mile, start trainingRunning Training Article - What Should Be My Running Pace at that pace so you know what it feels like.  A high school or college running track is the best place to learn pacing.  Run three repeat miles at 9:55 pace/mile, with short recoveries (1 to 3 minutes), and check your splits every 400 meters to ensure you are on pace.

These track runs train your body to clear the lactic acid that causes your muscles to "burn," forcing you to slow down.  Everyone has a threshold at which blood lactate dramatically increases.  These runs help push back your lactate threshold.


Practice Your Breathing

Another method for practicing your run pace is to monitor your breathing rhythm to help you feel your running pace.  Once you lock onto your correct goal pace for the workout, you can monitor whether you begin to breathe faster or slower or you change your breathing rhythm to identify when you accidentally speed up or slow down.

So how do you get in control and unlock your lungs so your breathing doesn't seem so labored?  It takes practice.  Breathing is such a natural thing that it feels quite unnatural to think about your breathing.  But, spending a few runs focused on your breathing can ensure more enjoyable and relaxing runs.

A good breathing training technique for beginners is to start with a walk.  Go for a one-minute walk. During the walk, focus on slow deep breathing.   During the walk, concentrate on expanding your belly as you breathe and keep an even breathing pattern.  Pay attention to your stride. More than likely you're taking multiple strides during each inhale as well as each exhale. Remember that a good exhale will clear the lungs of CO2 making room for more oxygen. Also focus on good posture. Walk with your back straight.  Keep your head up and relax your shoulders.

Now, pick up the pace for a two-minute slow jog.   Focus on keeping the same even breathing pattern. This will be more challenging.   Pay attention to the number of strides your taking with each inhale and exhale. (To count a stride, just count each time your right foot hits the ground.)

Finally, pick up the pace to a three-minute run.  Focus on keeping the same even breathing pattern you've been keeping since the jog.  Take note of the number of strides your taking for each inhale and exhale.  Once you will feel your breathes that you take are manageable,yet you are running at your best running speed, this concludes this is your running pace.


Be Patient

For beginners, learning how to control your pacing is difficult, but it is an essential skill to racing faster and improving your fitness.   Don’t expect to see changes after one or two workouts. Rather, work on one of few above suggestions in each workout until you start to get a natural sense of pace. Before you know it, you’ll be running at your target pace without even looking at your Garmin or watch.



In order to achieve success as a runner and reach your full potential we must pay close to our pace goals and have a plan on how you are going to reach your goals long before you toe the starting line. Pacing is something that can and should be practiced in training.   Every interval session and tempo run should have a specific pacing plan for you to stick to.


Are there any pacing trick(s) that you’ve tried that works well?



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