Every runner has experienced it. You set off on your run feeling fresh so you decide to run a little faster than normal, then half way through you start to flag. The lactic acid starts to pool in your legs and they gradually turn to jelly. It’s either continue on with heavy legs, or cut your run short and hobble home.
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common for a lot of beginner runners. It’s a real learning curve when judging your pace on a run. You don’t know whether you’re going too fast or too slow - how exactly do you know when all you have to rely on is your heart rate or breathing?
Pacing is one of the most important things to master, but is often overlooked my many runners. Effective pacing doesn’t have to be complicated. There are some simple things you can do to ensure your next run is a success. Whether you’re looking to achieve a PB or simply get better at it, here are four simple ways to ensure effective pacing on your run.
How to calculate your pace
Calculating your pace is a useful way to determine your how fast you should be running your race. It can also help you train and run better.
There are a lot of pace calculators online that can help you to calculate your pace for 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon distances. Here are a few of my favourites:
Invest in GPS technology
I suggest you invest in GPS technology as this will allow you to accurately track your pace. GPS is so effective because it tracks every second of your run and gives you real time data about your running performance so you can keep tabs on it throughout. Most running apps nowadays have GPS technology which are free to download. I highly recommend MapMyRun or Strava.
If you’re not a fan of tracking your run on your phone, I suggest you invest in a sports watch with GPS technology. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is my favourite sports watch as it’s quick and simple to use and provides accurate data on your run. It’s also a huge plus to be able to quickly check your pace on your wrist instead of having to dig out your phone each time. And no one likes a sweaty phone!
Different paces for different races
As discussed above, your pace will change depending on the duration of the race and the terrain. Don’t be tempted to run at a 5k race for a 10k or half marathon, for example - there’s a reason why your 5k pace is much faster as you’re not covering as many miles.
Similarly, if you’re running a race over hilly terrain, your pace will be slightly slower and mixed than what it would be on flat roads. When you attempt the slow inclines on the hills, you’ll run at a slower pace. When you run downhill, your pace will be slightly faster yet controlled to avoid injury.
Whatever type of race you decide to run, ensure you incorporate different types of training and workouts to get your body used to the pace.
Consider negative splits
Negative splits is another form of pacing which can help you to achieve a speedier PB. Negative splits is when you run the second half of a race faster than the first. The general rule is to run the first half up to 2% slower than the second half. Negative splits support the theory that starting slower and finishing faster is much better than starting faster and finishing slower. It’s also a better and more positive strategy for pacing your race as it saves you crashing and burning towards the end.
Including negative splits on your weekly runs will help acclimatise your body to running faster while fatigued and drill the practice into your legs and lungs. If you’re new to negative splits, I suggest you run the first 75% of your run at an easy, conversational pace, then picking it up to your 5k race pace for the last 25%. Another option is to break your run into thirds. If you’re running for 30 minutes, for example, jog the first 10 minutes at a very slow pace, the middle 10 minutes at a medium to fast pace, and the last 10 minutes very fast.
Practice pacing during training
I recommend you practice pacing every time you go out for a run to get used to it and get into the habit of keeping tabs on it. It’s surprising how much your pace can change in a run. It can easily be impacted by environmental factors like the weather, the time of day in which you choose to run, and how your body is feeling on the day of the run. So it’s good to get a variety of runs under your belt to really get used to how it feels.
On the day of your run, adrenaline is bound to take over. You’ll be tempted to push yourself further, but try not to do this as you’ll end up setting off too fast. Don’t compare yourself to other, faster runners on the day either. Have faith in your pacing that you’ve perfected during training and try not to worry - it’s your race and you’ll smash it!