Running Pace – Finding the Ideal Pace to Run

There is an interesting post over at LiveScience that discusses the Perfect Running Pace. As a runner, reading through this article uncovers some of the key aspects that your body already knows about running pace.

The most interesting aspect is that for each runner, there is an ideal running pace. A pace that is a perfect mix of speed and comfort. The reasoning is that a pace that is too fast will result in discomfort. And, running too slow can possibly harm you due to the discomfort and change in your gait.

Herein lies the challenge, how to find the ideal pace to run that combines speed and comfort. Thankfully, the more experienced you become as a runner, the easier it is to find your running pace. This comes from the various ways that a runner trains their body. Long runs give you an understanding of how far you can go. Speeedwork tells you how fast your body can go. Racing shows you how far you can push your body. Put them all together, study your times and you have some guidance for your running pace.

Running a Race – Start off Slow

For new runners looking for advice on keeping a pace to finish their race, my advice is typical of most experienced runners, start off slow.

Running a race and keeping your race pace should be secondary to avoiding injury and finishing the race. So, whether your running an upcoming Turkey Trot 5k or a winter 10 milers, the advice doesn’t change, start off slow.

The first benefit may not be something you thought of. Considering the time of year, late fall, early winter, almost any race you start will be in whether that can be from chilly to downright cold. Cold weather makes road racing tough because it is tough for you to get a good warm-up in before your road race. If you are running a 10k, but the temperature outside is near freezing, chances are you will spend a few extra minutes in your warm car or a nearby gym before getting out to the starting line. By starting off slow, you will give your body a chance to warm up, thereby reducing the chance for an injury.

Even though you may be off your targeted running race pace, starting off slow will also keep your adrenaline in check. Chances are, you are very anxious about the start of the race. So, keeping your pace down may be difficult. Often times, when I tell someone to start off slow, they do. Or, at least they think they are starting off slow. However, when they hit the first mile marker, they find that they are on pace or slightly ahead of race pace. Starting off slow kept that extra energy in check to avoid burnout later in the race.

Your Running Pace is Important to Track

For many runners, numbers are all that they think about. Just like most sports, numbers and stats can be taken to the extreme. Here are some of the numbers runners think about.

  • Time of running pace
  • Total time of your run
  • Distance of your run in miles or kilometers
  • Distance of your race
  • What number you place
  • A marathon is about 26 miles or approximately 42 kilometers
  • Number of repetitions or intervals
  • Personal record
  • Personal record at each age division
  • Weight
  • Temperature
  • And, a lot more

With all the numbers to track, why is your running pace important. The answer is that it depends on your goals.

If you are running to prepare for a race, tracking your pace is a key indicator for what you are capable of achieving in the race. That is, you can project your approximate finishing time. Knowing your pace for a certain distance will also help you perform at your best in the race. Trying to run an even pace will be very important to finishing the race.

If you are running for health reasons, such as to lose weight, tracking your running pace is a key measure. The pace you run at the start of your health routine gives you a beginning reference point. From here, after you have run for several weeks or months, an improvement in your pace will tell you that you are making progress towards your health goals.

What Running Pace Should You Run?

The running pace you should run is primarily dictated by your level of fitness, the length of the run and your running capability.

First, your pace cannot be selected arbitrarily. Selecting a pace for a run or a road race should be done with careful consideration. You should never select your running pace based on what you would like to run unless you have completed adequate training. Never select a pace that you have never run before.

So, what should you do. Consult the following pointers, and, your running pace chart to determine your pace.

Level of Fitness
First, your level of running fitness is a key to determing your running pace. For long races, if you have not put in the appropriate amount of mileage, you will not have the staminia to maintain your race pace. For shorter road races, you need to have trained with the right amount of speed. Don’t attempt to race a particular pace until you have run it several times in training. Preferably, you have run this race pace in shorter distances to get a good feel for what the pace feels like. You should be able to maintain the pace in a consistent manner for 75% of the targeted distance of the race.

Length of Run
Naturally, the length of your run will be a determing factor in your pace. The longer the run, the slower the pace. Check your running pace with our calculator then check the pace chart. Use your training as a guide to help you determine what pace you can maintain. If you have a high level of fitness, generally your pace will decrease 10% per kilometer or per mile.

Running Capability
Finally, your running capability will dictate your pace. Faster running can maintain a faster pace. If you can run a mile in 6 minutes, but you can’t run 2 miles in 12 minutes, you shouldn’t target a 6 minute per mile pace in a 10k race. Pick a slower pace.

How to Maintain Your Running Pace

One of the most common questions that beginner runners have is how to maintain their running pace. Whether for a road race or a run out the door, maintaining your pace can be difficult.

There are several techniques that help a runner to maintain their running pace. Knowing these can help you improve your running, get more joy out of your running and provide incentive to improve.

Training Runs to Pace

It is hard for runners to gauge their pace when they are just beginning to run. It is also difficult for runners who are moving through different phases of running, such as getting faster or slower, to know or maintain their pace. So, the best thing to do is train for your pace.

To do so, schedule a series of runs over a measured distance and mark out the miles or kilometers. Then, run your course as steady as possible and check your watch at each mile or kilometer marker. After 3-6 days of running this route, you should get a good feel for a pace on this course.

Set Attainable Goals

One of the hardest things for a runner is to be realistic about their skills. If you want to train at a certain pace, you need to know whether or not your body is capable of running the pace. Do a time trial, or run on the track to check your fitness. Then, set your running pace goal accordingly.

If you find it difficult to maintain your targeted running pace, slow down early in your run. This will give you staminia for later that will help you to maintain your pace. (Plus, you’ll have a better chance at avoiding injury.)

Don’t forget to check your running pace charts for the distance you want to cover. As you add more distance, adjust your pace downward accordingly.

Maintaining your running pace is simply a matter of practice. You can train your body to keep a steady pace with patience, dedication and determination.