Finding your perfect running pace can make your runs easier and more enjoyable. Running even a little faster than your ideal pace can result in fatigue or even injury. Of course, your running pace during training may be different than on race day – and the pace you run will vary depending on what type of race you’re competing in.
If you can find the pace you’re most comfortable running at your current fitness level, you’ll be better equipped to determine the best pace to shoot for during training and when competing in races. You’ll also be able to set realistic goals for improving your pace. It can be challenging to find the perfect pace and to stick with it, but you’ll feel more comfortable and see better results if you do.
But how do you determine your perfect pace?
Do A Trial Run
Go to a track and warm up for 5 – 10 minutes, doing an easy jog or walk. Then time yourself running a mile around the track (typically 4 laps). During this run, push yourself to go a little faster than you usually do but don’t run all out. This should give you an indication of your top speed at your current fitness level.
During your daily runs, aim to run 2 – 3 minutes slower per mile than you did during your trial run. At this moderate pace, you should be hitting your target heart rate and should be able to finish a sentence without having to catch your breath. If you’re out of breath, you’re running too fast. The pace should feel comfortable and relaxed and this is where you should do at least 70% of your training.
You can’t run the same pace for every distance. If you’re looking to set realistic goals, try this method suggested by Runners World: add 33 seconds to your trial run pace for a 5K or multiply your trial run pace by 1.15 for a 10K, 1.2 for a half-marathon and 1.3 for a marathon.
Improving Your Pace
You’re not going to instantly run faster just because you keep running. It’s best to set realistic goals and then create a training plan to help you reach those goals. Doing speed intervals – short intervals where you increase your pace – can help you get faster. Start by running faster for just a mile or two and then gradually increase the amount you run at your faster pace as you feel comfortable.
Every few weeks, redo your trial run to check your pace. Then use this new pace as the basis for setting your daily run pace and your race pace goals.