How quick should your runs be?

Pacing each run can be a very ambiguous subject to tackle, but is necessary in order to improve. Varying the pace for each of your runs can also help you enjoy your running more, as each activity is different from the last.

There are several types of paces: ‘junk’, easy, steady, tempo and  beyond threshold. Different coaches call these different paces by different names, but after a description of each one you will know which one your coach means.

To determine the pace of each of your runs, we need to take it off heart rate, and the easiest way to extrapolate the data is to determine your heart rate at your tempo pace. Running at your tempo pace means that you are running at such a pace that your body is producing lactic acid at the same rate it is breaking it down. This kind of running really helps an athlete develop their strength, and teaches their bodies to hold a faster pace for longer, as the longer you are running at your lactic threshold, the higher your threshold becomes, ultimately making your tempo pace quicker per mile. To determine your tempo pace, it is the pace you can run at (for approximately 20 minutes) where your heart rate is 70-80% your max heart rate- your max heart rate being 220bpm minus your age. Take me for example, I am 19 years old and when I run at 5:20/mile pace, my heart rate is 150-160bpm. The easiest way to measure your heart rate is obviously with a monitor or if your running watch has that feature, but if not, just put your fingers to your neck after 20 minutes of running, and calculate.

Now you know your tempo pace, it is easy to figure out the pace your other runs should be at. Your sessions (track or grass repetitions) should be quicker than your tempo pace, rather considerably depending on the distance of each repetition. To determine your ‘steady’ pace, you should add on 35-40 seconds per mile. So in my case, my steady state would be at 5:55-6:00/mile. It is important to incorporate steady runs into your routine, as they are an easy way to develop strength without being too strenuous. Furthermore, if you struggle with a steady run, it is often because you have an injury in early phase, or an illness in early phase, so it allows you to rest up and heal before it gets too serious.

To determine your ‘easy’ pace, as a rule of thumb your easy runs should be 75-90 seconds slower per mile. So again in my case my easy runs should be at 6:35-6:50/mile. Your easy runs should be your longest runs of the week, as they are the key to enhancing your fitness, and allow you to build up your weekly mileage without much exertion. Finally, your ‘junk’ runs, should be short (no longer than 30 mins) and should be at least 2 minutes slower per mile than your tempo pace. The purpose of these runs are very clear; they dissipate lactic acid from previous runs and workouts, and allow a runner to transition to their next run without those ‘groggy’ first couple of miles, as all the ‘junk’ in your legs has been sorted out by your very easy ‘junk’ miles.

Of course this topic is subject to scrutiny, as every individual is unique so it will not be the same for everyone, and the abundance of each type of run will be different depending on how long you have been running, and what you are training for. It is important to make sure you don’t do too much of your runs at one pace, as this is an easy way to get injured. I hope this helped, and please ask any questions.

Once a runner, always a runner.

Callum Francis

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