A blog by runners. For runners.

How to stay on pace

How to set and keep your paceIf you’re gunning for a certain finish time, you know exactly what pace you need to hold over those 6.2, 13.1, or 26.2 miles. But actually maintaining that pace through the entire course?

That’s easier said than done.

Running consistent miles at a steady pace is challenging. First, your body needs to learn what the pace feels like, and then you need keep that pace up for an entire race. It’s no easy feat, but following these tips can help you stay on target:

Regularly run faster: Unless you’re running a track event, your race pace should not be an all-out sprint. Incorporate speedwork into your training with intervals that are faster than your goal race pace. Why? Because it’s easier to hold a pace that’s slightly slower than what you ran during training.

… And slower: Slower miles are important, too. Running easy will help you recover from those intense speedwork sessions, while helping you with pacing, too. You’ll get used to what a slow pace feels like, and if you unintentionally slow down during the race, you’ll quickly know you’re running too slowly.

Hop on the treadmill: If you want to know what your goal pace feels like, hit the treadmill and set the belt to that pace. The best way to hold a goal pace on race day is to practice running at that pace regularly during training. Do one run on the treadmill at race pace every week and after awhile, you’ll know that pace so well that you’ll be able to maintain it outside. 

Run long: Start incorporating long slow distance (LSD) runs into your training. LSD runs should be run 1-2 minutes/mile slower than your goal pace. When you build endurance this way, it will be easier to dial into – and maintain – your goal pace come race day. Even if you’re not training for a half or a full marathon, regularly doing LSD runs can make it easier to hold a pace on shorter runs because you’ll have more endurance. Zone out on your LSD runs and just concentrate on covering the distance, without fretting about your time.

Run by feel then quiz yourself: Run with a timing device, but resist the urge to look at it until you finish up. Try to hold a consistent pace during the run, but then quiz yourself afterwards. Estimate what your pace was. What mile felt fastest? Which felt slowest? Look at your splits afterwards and see if you were right.

Start slowly: It’s common to start out a race too fast – sometimes much faster than goal pace. But going out too fast can tire you out, and make you fall off pace later in the race. Try not to get caught up in the excitement at the start line, and run slower than goal pace during the first mile or so. This will also save some gas in your tank for later. Repeating “slow now, fast later” or a similar mantra may help you keep your pace in check.

Be patient: Learning how to hit a target pace takes a lot of time. Years of experience to be exact. If you’re new to running, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. After a decade of running or so, you may be able to run an 8:00, 9:00, or 10:00 mile without putting too much thought into it.

Written by Jen Matz.

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