Posted by: Joe English | February 21, 2012

Training — How fast do you run?

running-advice-bugHere’s a question that shouldn’t stump you: how fast d o you run? But, in fact, this question results in puzzling answers from the vast majority of runners. If you’re thinking to yourself something along the lines of “well, in my last marathon I averaged about X pace” then you’re an example of what I’m going to talk about today.

Every workout should have a purpose and in getting to that purpose, you really need to know how fast you’re running. Not “sort of know” or “kind of know” or an “average pace” but exactly how fast you’re running. In order to train to run a particular goal pace, as well as to figure out what paces will get the most of your training, you need to start with an understanding of your pace at any given time.

Before I get in to some easy ways and tips to keep track of pace, let me first explain the problem in a little more detail. I was out running with someone a couple of weeks ago and she said the darndest thing: “I don’t think I ran enough miles in my last training cycle, that’s why I didn’t meet my goal pace.” The error here is that there is little that the amount of miles tells you about your training, especially above a certain number of miles per week. What does tell you about how well you’re prepared to run any particular goal pace is: 1) how much of your training was actually done at goal pace and 2) how much of your training was done faster than goal pace. In an ideal setting most of your mileage will be done at goal pace or faster and only those few recovery efforts will be done more slowly. (To read more about different types of pace runs and the amount of each during a particular week, read our Running Terminology Series.)

Too many runners spend the bulk of their time running slower than goal pace and then they don’t understand why goal pace isn’t achieved on race day. Runners with goal pace expectations need to log the time at goal pace to learn that pace and to spend the time running faster than goal pace so that goal pace feels easy on race day.

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