How to Pace Yourself While Running

14th August 2018
Making sure you feel comfortable with your pace is vital to getting the best out of yourself when you are running. Many times, overexertion or small mistakes in preparation can prevent you from enjoying the run or controlling your times.

Perhaps you think that learning to pace yourself while running is impossible… or that it’s something that only professionals should do? However, no matter how long your run is, you need to calculate it correctly in order to achieve your goals. In this article, we will help you to do just that.

Tips to help you pace yourself while running

Surely, you have had days when you have felt yourself running too slowly, especially when you just want to take a light jog? Where on other days, you probably run much faster than you should, especially if you are doing heavy training. Finding a good running pace can be complicated…

According to running experts, you should not always push yourself to the maximum limits during your training runs. Particularly before a big race, because in doing so, you can waste valuable energy and increase your chances of injuries. 

running a better time

The important issue here, is to know how to manage your efforts and learn how to pace yourself while running. Here are some recommendations that can help you:

1. Calculate your ideal pace without guessing it

Many people begin with training for a 5K race and once you have competed in this race, it will be much easier to reach your goals. Record the time that you achieve in your competition and when you return to your routine, do three repetitions of 1,500 meters, using that same pace. Between each repetition, jog for 800 meters.

If you are able to achieve the same time in the final repetition, as you did on the first, you have found your pace! If the last repetition is slower, you should adjust your speed in the next three repetitions that you complete.

2. Do not be too strict with yourself

You must take into account that you are a person, not a robot, and that although you have been able to find your running pace, it is likely that you will have to modify it for future races or training runs. There are many variables that may alter your running pace, including: temperature, distance, time of day, your diet, the shoes you wear and the type of race.

starting to run after 40

Leave at least a margin of 10 per cent difference – 5 per cent faster and 5 per cent slower – on your “normal” times, so that these variables do not take you by surprise. Avoid the need that runners often have, to complete a distance much faster than your previous time.

3. Find your maximum heart rate

The strategy entitled, The 180 Formula, by sports trainer Dr. Phil Maffetone can be very useful in helping you to pace yourself while running. The goal is to find your maximum heart rate during aerobic training. How do you monitor this? With a heart rate monitor or with a mobile application.

This technique will let you know at exactly what moment you are “giving it your all,” and it will help you to determine how long you can maintain your rhythm. It can even help you to improve your performance and become more resistant during races.

4. Complete base speed intervals

Once you have determined your speed in the 5K run, try to run for longer intervals. A good exercise includes intervals of 800 meters, 400 meters, and 200 meters, with the aim of running about seven seconds faster, per kilometer in each interval.

In long-distance races, you should run at a pace of between 20 and 30 seconds slower per kilometer, than your base speed. In recovery jogs, aim for 30 to 60 seconds slower.

5. Know your maximum aerobic speed

Another technique to help you to pace yourself while running, is to know what your total aerobic capacity is. That is, at the point of running where you consume the most oxygen.

woman jogging

The MAS test (maximal aerobic speed) includes a warm-up and a run of 3,000 meters at 90 per cent speed. In the last 400 meters, increase this to 100 per cent capacity. Then, you should record your time and your heartbeat. You can enter this data in a special web application, in order to find out what your ideal running pace should be.