Learn to pace your running and how to read your body

Pacing is a must-have in the arsenal of a competitive runner. Knowing how your going and how you feel is fundamental to race day success.

Checking her split times and her pacing.Checking her split times and her pacing.

Picking the right pace is imperative for race day success. How many times have you heard “I set off too quick”? Or “I peaked too late”? Pacing is a misunderstood semantic of a runners terminology. It’s not all about going gun-ho, giving it 100% from the kick-off. Bad pacing is arguably one of the most common mistakes that runners make but that doesn’t have to include you. We discuss why pacing is important and how you can learn to pace your running.

What is pacing?

Pacing is a term runners have coined relating to their speed. A runners pace is usually calculated in minutes per mile. The lower your minute per mile is the faster you are travelling. This is because you’re covering ground faster and taking you less time to reach the mile milestone. So on the flip side the higher your m/m the slower you are, but slow isn’t always bad.

How people apply their pacing can really vary from person to person. Some know that running uphill at a certain pace brings their heart rate to a steady level and makes the climb easier. Other might use it to calculate their last sprint finish.

Most people tend to have their own intuitive pace clock but to make sure you’re judging your speed accurately, you need to keep practising it.

How can you practice it?

Unfortunately, there’s no quick way to teach yourself how to pace. It’s just a case of practice and experience.

Using his smartwatch to ingrain his pacings.
Using his smartwatch to ingrain his pacings.

To give yourself an idea of how different each pace feels, find a spot that’s flat and measured out. I used roadworks sign when I was learning that told me I was 50 meters from ‘men at work’. Once you’ve found your spot just run as you would and work out how long it would take for you to run a mile.

A mile is 1600m. So for me when I ran 50m, I had to multiply my time by 32. This would have given me my time in seconds so just divide that by 60 and you’ll have it in minutes.

Then try working it at faster and slower paces getting a feel for what each one feels like.

Another simple way of working on your paces is with apps and GPS’s. They’ll often tell you what the pace your running at is so at some point, without peeking. Guess what your pace is.

Our final tip for learning to pace is to run a flat route you know the length of. You should be able to work out how long it should take you at your desired pace. So set a timer, trot off, and once you’ve finished, check to see how close you were.

Why is it important?

Pacing helps differentiate the good runners from the average. It’s an important tool to help make sure you know how your bodies feeling, or how it should be feeling.

If you’re feeling the pace is feeling harder and harder every mile marker then that’s telling you that you need to slow down. Now that’s obvious but as simple as it sounds, the reverse is probably more important.

A successful day, crossing the line and tearing the ribbon!
A successful day, crossing the line and tearing the ribbon!

Pacing helps you know when you’re underworking which is something that inexperienced runners won’t think about. Not to put anyone down, but if your cruising along thinking this is easy then you probably haven’t put in the effort you think you have so far. Risking your time! Learning how to pace will help you detect whether you have more fuel in the tank to burn. Help you know when you can up the intensity and glide to the finish line.


Joe Tucker
the authorJoe Tucker
Joe is an aspiring fitness journalist looking to get his foot in the industry at A fair-weather runner and sparring sissy who occasionally enjoys rolling down hills ... on two wheels that is. Any story ideas? Feel free to DM him with any ideas.

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