Last week I let you into the ill informed training strategies of this poor deluded fool. To be fair I did warn you all that I probably do too much work on pace and more than is recommended by most articles. The real point that I hope readers took away was that running could be split down crudely into 2 component parts, speed and endurance. This week after a few questions from peeps I will pontificate about pace. There are two elements to this as well ( can anyone sense a theme here?), having realistic targets and knowing how fast you should be training at to get to those targets.
The first question you should be asking is what is realistic for me to aim for. Sometimes this can be a tricky question especially if you are attempting a distance you have never done before. It is all very well wanting to qualify for the Boston Marathon but is it going to be possible? Certainly it maybe a future aspiration, but should I be training for that now? First things first, decide what length of race you want to run and then pick one at least 16 weeks away as a target for a specific time. I try never to think much beyond the next target race when it comes to training. I may want a Boston Qualifying time but I am not ready to train for that yet. If you set yourself a completely unrealistic target you are simply setting yourself up for disappointment and possibly injury. Training at a level which is way beyond your current capabilities is a recipe for disaster, so how do you work out a reasonable target time to run?
There is help at hand and this is another reason why I love parkrun. If you are a parkrunner you have a regular record of your time over a set distance run at all kinds of paces. If you look at a kind of average for when you try pretty hard, you can work out what times you are likely to get in any given race distance you train for. Once you have estimated what your parkrun time is you then need to find a pace calculator. Luckily I have already done this so you just have to click on this link to find a web based one. If you run an android phone you can also get this one pace+ which I use from the play store. I am sure Apple has it’s equivalents but I am a tightwad proponent of open source stuff so I am not going to go there. Put in your 5k result, put the distance that you want to race and press the button. Bingo, there you have it. I am fairly confident in running a 5k at around 23:30 if I put in a bit of effort, not PB turf but giving it a good go. Chuck it in and get the result spat out for a marathon 3:45:56. I think the 56 seconds is probably a bit of overkill on accuracy but it’ll do. Quite handily it is not far off the target pace I want for my next marathon so I’m happy with that. Now all I have to do is work out what paces I should be training at.
If you can remember back to last week I spoke about 3 different types of runs, long slow runs which build up endurance, speed work which helps you get faster and tempo runs which try and put everything together. Obviously these have to be run at very different paces and you have to check on these regularly, so my first question is this. Do you have a watch that keeps track of your current lap pace? If not get one immediately. It took me about a year to realise that I could not pace properly while I looked at the average pace for the whole run. To run to pace you need to know what speed you are running now, not an average of your pace over the last 5 miles, especially if you are on track. The last thing you want is your resting pace averaged into your training pace. That way lies madness. Once we know that we can track our current pace we can turn back to our pace calculator and put in the time that we would like to achieve. I know that my predicted time is about 3:45, so I plug it into the calculator and see what I get.
I learn from Pace+ that my easy runs should be at about 9:27, Tempo runs at about 8:01 moderately fast runs at 7:17 and full on speed work at about 6:46. Armed with this knowledge I can go out on my long slow runs knowing I should be aiming for about 9:30 min miles on the flat, you are allowed to go slower if there are hills involved. On my tempo runs where I am putting stuff together I should be aiming to run at about 8:00 min miles and, pace work could be anywhere between 6:45 – 7:20 depending on what type of intervals I am running. Generally speaking the further you are running the slower you should be going.
Hope this has been of some use, certainly if you have not looked at one you need to checkout a pace calculator, it changed the way I thought about training, and on top of everything else helped me be aware of the necessity of paying attention to pace and how it can help your running. Just going hell for leather is fine but in the long run it doesn’t help you get any better, there is only so much it can do and as with all unfocused practise you end up stuck in a rut. If you are interested ask me questions, I can be found on twitter @SaulBee or leave a comment, always happy to speak to running friends I haven’t met yet!