Pacing Advice

Training Your Pacing

We all have busy lives and it’s hard to fit training around work, family and generally just life.  There are hiccups along the way, illness, injury, bad runs, new jobs, the list is endless.  To top it off there is a lot running jargon that is hard to get your head around.  So how do you make sense of it all.

The most common mistake runners make is starting out too fast on race day, you are feeling refreshed as you have tapered for this race, you have worked hard each weekend with the longer runs in the rain, snow and sunshine and you are now on the start line.  The first few miles feel good! Wow I am amazing all that hard work has paid off, look at my pace it’s brilliant.  However, by starting out faster than goal pace and putting “time in the bank” you are actually burning through your available carbohydrate stores faster and your will almost certainly run out of fuel and crash. 

Try and use the 4-1 rule, for every 1 second per mile faster than optimal pace you run in the first part of your run (mainly for a half or for a marathon) you will give back up to 4 seconds per mile in the final part of the run.  For example If your race pace was 10 minute miles and you averaged 9.45 minute per mile in the first part of the run you are likely to find you can only average 11 minute miles for the final part of the run, so the 15 seconds turns into 60 seconds towards the end of the race as the ratio between 60 seconds and 15 seconds is 4:1

How do you progress in finding or increasing your race pace?

There are 3 golden training sessions to any training plan.  If you get these sessions into your week you give yourself the best opportunity to enjoy your race and achieve your goal.  They add a bit of variety into your plan, but remember these are just guidelines and it won’t be a disaster if you don’t manage them week in week out, they are options to give you an opportunity to add variety to your runs.

If you are fairly new to running, I would only advise 2 of the 3 and if you are only able to get out twice a week, then the long run is vital and either an interval session or a bit of speed play in a group run where you sprint between two lamp posts, or run all the way up Strawberry Track and back down, is more than enough. it’s just getting the body used to being out of breath. Unless you are an experienced runner please do, not do all three of these sessions as this can lead to doing too much too soon and therefore potential injury

The golden sessions are

1               Training Pacing Session (Tempo Runs)

2               Long Run

3               Higher-Intensity Repeats (Interval Training)


1 Training Pacing Session or Tempo Run

The training pacing session or tempo run teaches you to physically and mentally run at your target race pace and by practicing your target race pace it enables you to be comfortable so that you learn to pace yourself as evenly and as efficiently as possible.  If you don’t know what your training pace is and that you just want to get round then use a pace that you can comfortably talk at.

Start your tempo run at a moderate pace of 45 to 90 seconds per mile slower than your target race pace.  For the middle section of your run increase your pace to your target race pace and get used to how that feels, if you are out of breath and struggling then you may need to adjust your target pace time to a slightly slower time, if they feel easy then you can adjust your target pace time to a faster time.  You then finish your last mile with a moderate 45 to 90 seconds slower than your race pace.  Most training plans that I do have a tempo run which increases in distance each week and then drops down again once you move into your peak training weeks.  Remember, the plans are recipes and it’s good to see what works and what doesn’t and these tempo runs are a good indicator of what you can achieve. These are hard workouts as the miles increase.            

2 Long Run 

The long run is all about building endurance for your race, if you want to successfully race long, you need to properly train long.  The benefits of the long run are numerous

It builds the foundations from which you can add the extra beneficial sessions which reduces the chance of injury.  I like my athletes to have a good base foundation of miles so they have built up slow twitch muscles.

Builds the aerobic system

Prepares the body for the physical stress of running long

Provided an opportunity to practice fueling and hydrating properly

Prepares the athlete for the mental stress of running long

Long runs should be completed at a pace of about 45-90 secs per mile slower than your target race pace.  Do not run these long runs too fast, the old fashioned school of thought which is “being more is always better” is not the case for long races. You cannot wing long races and if you do too many long runs and race these runs you will not be training effectively which may jeopardies your performance on race day.


3 Higher Intensity Repeats or Interval Training


These runs are simple repeat drills done at a high level of effort with an easy timed recovery jog in between.  If you do short repeats of 800m or less at about your 5k pace and long repeats over 800m at your 10k pace.  Generally, these repeats should be completed at a pace at least 30 seconds per mile faster than your target race pace.  This type of training increases your race pace and builds confidence.  You will soon discover that what used to be a pace that was hard is now quite comfortable and when you do push your pace you are used to the uncomfortable feeling this gives you.


Please do not panic, ask me if there is anything that you don’t understand, if the next race is your first race then just follow the advice of not setting off too quick but if you would like to improve on your time then take some of the advice about mixing the training runs up.  The most important thing is that your longer runs should be run at a slower pace than normal and on race day don’t go out too quick, this will make the race really unenjoyable which may lead you to hanging up your trainings forever.