28 Oct What PACE should I be running at? Here are my THREE key paces.
It’s the burning question… What PACE should I run at?
The big one, and one that for many runners is a confusing area.
If I had a pound for every time I’d had to answer it… Well, I’d probably be writing this from a beach in the Caribbean (or maybe not even writing it at all..!)
But in this post I’ve popped a guide to pacing with the 3 key paces you should have in your mind in each session you complete.
Heading back in time a few years (12 if we are being exact).
Young Coach Ant (who had no intention of becoming a coach back then as he was currently at College studying IT, Graphic Design and Economics..) was getting into running.
When I say getting into, I mean, running once or twice a week with a local running club (Worthing Harriers).
He, or should I say “I”, loved it. 😉
It was a great time, I’d finish college, eat, head to running, destroy myself with whatever session was prescribed and then crawl home.
My clearest memory was of the Zig Zag hills which was one of the first sessions I did at the club. There were about 8 steep zig zags up a local climb.
The type of climb that completing it once would be a big challenge. Going twice would borderline crazy… I think the session was to do around 6 reps.
Being the young competitive lad I was back then, I just had to be first.
I didn’t quite manage it, I think I was third…
For the first effort.
Before I started to feel rather sick, dizzy and I stopped after rep two.
What young Ant hadn’t really learnt about back then was anything to do with pacing. It was all about running hard – because that was the way to run faster. To push the body and keep on pushing.
Luckily, I learnt all of those lessons very early on and I’ve tried plenty of different pacing strategies over the last 12 years.
Even so, the “pacing” question is a confusing one.
Which is why I have written below, my quick guide to pacing with 3 key paces.
Because I like to keep things uber simple.
PACE ONE – Easy.
This is a simple one. Don’t run hard. You should be breathing a little heavier than if you were walking (obviously) but you shouldn’t be wanting or needing to stop in the near future (unless you are a compete beginner, in which case, give it time, it really does get easier with time).
Rating out of 5 – this run should be a firm 2.
Running to pace? Then aim to run around 2 minutes per mile on top of your 5k pace.
Top tips for this pace: Focus on keeping a quick cadence (quick feet). What a lot of runners do when they try to slow down is they take longer and heavier steps. Avoid this by taking smaller strides and this will also reduce impact on your joints and reduce your risk of injury too.
PACE TWO – Tempo.
This is where things get a little confusing. Often people refer to tempo as being around your 10k to Half Marathon pace.
Thats pretty much like saying my age is somewhere between 20 and 80. It doesn’t help things in the slightest.
Rating out of 5 – this run should be a 3 or 4 out of 5. When you start running, it should feel reasonably comfortable, but as your body fatigues (it will..!) this number will rise slightly. The main focus is that this type of session is comfortably hard. You should also aim to finish like you could continue if you had to, you shouldn’t be collapsing in a heap at the end!
Running to pace? Tempo is actually around the pace you could sustain for ONE hour in a race. So if you can run a 60 minute 10k, that’s your tempo pace. Run 10 miles in 60 minutes, then this is your tempo pace.
Top tips for this pace: Break down your sessions into chunks when starting out. Ideally a tempo run will be around 20-45 minutes in duration, it can be longer or shorter. My preference for those new to running or those who struggle with motivation for a challenging session is to run sets of 7-9 minutes and repeat this 3-4 times. This way you keep the quality in your running form and still get a great workout.
PACE THREE – Hard.
For your hard efforts, really you shouldn’t have too much time to be worrying about pacing it, personally I prefer to run this type of session based on how you FEEL. Spend time looking at your watch and you’ll be forever self doubting yourself, thinking you’ve either gone out too hard or not hard enough. Its a battle you are unlikely to win.
This type of session however should be a staple in all runners programs, although make sure you have it in there after building up your fitness first if you are new to the sport.
You’ll be running hard efforts for around 1-4 minutes at a high intensity and repeating this multiple times.
Rating out of 5 – this run should be a 5 out of 5. When you start running each interval, it should feel challenging and pretty tough. As it progresses you’ll be wanting to stop (most likely anyway) as your heart rate rockets.
Running to pace? As I mentioned above, pacing this one isn’t something I’d personally worry about. Make each interval hard any you are on the right track. But these should be quicker than your 5k pace. The trick for these is to aim for consistency, so when it comes to the analysis of your session on Garmin/Strava or whatever program you use, keep an eye on how consistent you were.
Top tips for this pace: Focus on your running technique throughout these intervals, holding running form when you fatigue is one of the key things I look for in a runner. If things are breaking down mid interval, then we know exactly what to work on in future sessions. So come up with a handful of technique tips to repeat to yourself – things like: “Run Tall” “Drive the arms” and “Extend your stride” all work to keep you focused when the going gets tough!
And thats it.
For all runners that I work with, this is all we will start with. Once they’ve started to get that hang of the three pace system, then we can start looking into refining those zones (I also use a 5 zone for my Online Coached runners).
So to summarise.
- Run Easy
- Run Hard
And thats it.
P.S. If you are interested in Online Running Coaching, there is now an online questionnaire to fill in to get you started with zero commitment to get started with. You can find it >>HERE<<
P.P.S. If you want some more session ideas, you can download my guide to Faster Running with 50 sessions! Enough for one every week for almost a year.
Click below to grab your copy for just £3.99 and I’ll get a copy emailed over to you today:
Ant is the creator of RunCamp. Everyday his goals are to educate, motivate and inspire runners and triathletes to make themselves better than they were yesterday.
Running in his eyes is a journey, and through his coaching he aims to make everyone’s journeys more enjoyable.
As well as running, you’ll find Ant regularly taking part in triathlons, from sprint distance up to full Ironmans.
He also has a big weakness in the forms of Papa John’s pizza and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, so if you ever want to get an easier session, thats one way to get one!