How to Pace Your Run

Learning how to pace a run is one of the most difficult and important skills to develop as you progress in your running career. Even experienced runners can be prone to starting off too quickly, or letting their competitive instincts get the better of them by trying to keep pace with someone who’s far too fast. Inevitably, you’ll be left a panting, exhausted mess, without the necessary juice to finish the race.

If you need a little help pacing a run, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’re going to provide you with a few expert tips to help you find and maintain a good running pace.

  1. Consistency trumps a negative split
  2. When attempting to set a good running pace, most amateur runners try to leave something in the tank so they can speed up towards the end of a run. However, studies have shown that producing a negative split, i.e. going at a faster pace during one section of your run, is less likely to produce a personal best than running at a consistent pace throughout the race.

    In order to establish what pace you can consistently maintain for the duration of a run, you need to spend some time training over a specific distance to see how different paces feel. That will give you a better idea of what you can achieve on days when you’re feeling great, and a sensible pace to aim for when you’re not feeling quite so hot.

  3. Use the treadmill to calculate your ‘optimum mile’
  4. Treadmill running is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but the treadmill can be an excellent tool when you need help pacing a run. One technique to calculate the perfect pace for a run is to set the distance on the treadmill to a mile and push yourself to run it at a hard pace. You shouldn’t run as hard as you can, but you should be panting when you finish. The time you take is your ‘optimum mile’ pace.

    You can then use that optimum mile pace to calculate a good running pace for any length of run. For a 5K run, multiply your optimum mile pace by 1.10; for a 10K race, times it by 1.15; and for a half marathon, multiply your optimum mile time by 1.2. Rather than getting dragged along by the crowd, that allows you to set the ideal pace tailored to you.

  5. Use a heart rate monitor
  6. A heart rate monitor can be a very effective and affordable way to determine your physical exertion at different stages of a run. On a bad day, you could find your ‘optimum mile’ pace is pushing your heart rate far higher than it should be at that stage of your run. In that case, you should ease off a little to reduce some of the strain. Heart rate monitors are also effective ways to bypass the subjectivity involved when determining a good running pace. Your head may tell you that your pace is too high but monitoring your heart rate can tell you exactly how much (or little) strain your body is under.

    You can get a lab test to determine your maximum heart rate or create an estimate based on age-based formulas. You can then pace your run by using a percentage of that figure:

    • Easy run – 60–65% of heart rate max
    • Long run – 70–75% of heart rate max
    • Tempo run – 85–88% of heart rate max
    • Speed run – 90% of heart rate max

  7. Build your base and track your runs
  8. In the early days, you shouldn’t worry too much about what constitutes a good running pace. Instead, you should take it slowly and build your base. Rather than focusing on your mileage or speed, concentrate on running consistently over a matter of weeks. If you monitor your runs with an app, you’ll soon start to develop an idea of your running pace. You can then start to track your real-time pace data while you’re running. Some devices will even let you set pace alerts, which notify you when your pace drops either behind or ahead of schedule.

Quality running gear, whatever your pace

At ASICS, we might not be able to help you pace your run, but our men’s and women’s running shoes, running clothing and running accessories will keep you dry, comfortable and supported every step of the way.