How do you figure out what pace you should train at?
From the 5K distance up to the marathon – it’s not easy to know what the optimal training paces are with out help from someone with experience. My go to site for figuring out what pace I should train at is the McMillan Running website.
I think one of the biggest mistakes runners make when training for the half marathon and marathon distance is always running in their comfort zone. Runners often assume because they can run a certain pace easily – that they should run their long runs, easy runs and recovery runs, at this comfortable pace. On the flip side they often do not go fast enough in speed work because their bodies are tired from always being in the comfort zone. A runner needs to run fast on speed days, slow on recovery days and a mixture of speeds on other days.
Let’s use a 4 hour marathon as an example.
Goal sub 4:00
Plug in 3:58 to McMillan.
Note: I always plug in a tad faster than goal race pace because the likelihood of you running the exact pace you train for is small. There are always variables in the marathon that can slow you down – prepare for this.
Goal Pace: 9:06
Below are the basic training paces. I didn’t include the track paces because they can seem intimidating at first.
- Recovery Jogs
- 10:36 to 11:06
- Long Runs
- 9:36 to 10:36
- Easy Runs
- 9:36 to 10:06
- Tempo Runs
- 8:16 to 8:37
- Tempo Intervals
- 8:09 to 8:26
When looking at the paces at the beginning of a training cycle you should be able to hit the slow end of the range – if you can get in the range then your race goal is probably realistic. By the middle of training your paces should have improved. This is a reason why it’s important to keep a training diary or log your miles. Looking back over training cycles – what you did and didn’t do will help you prepare better in future cycles.
By the end of the training cycle the goal is to be at the lower end of the paces on all the runs. If a 9 minute pace is fairly easy for you for 10 miles or so then you would be in range for the easy runs, long runs, and recovery runs – but if you can’t get down to the lower end of the Tempo Run, Tempo Interval or Track paces then you are likely not in as good of shape as you think and may need to adjust your race goal.
During a training cycle I log into McMillan’s site weekly. I write out my paces for various different marathon scenarios and tape them up where I can see them. I want to live them. Breathe them. I want to be able to tell you how fast I need to run in any given workout to get my 3:05.
I have found from my 9 years as a marathoner that breaking down the marathon into small PR’s helps. My first marathon was a 4:20 my PR now a 3:11. I could have never have just trained for a 3:11 and hit that mark after my 4:20 marathon. I needed to make small training changes.
I went from a 4:20 to 4:14 to 4:09 to 3:59 to 3:36 to 3:31 to 3:21 to 3:13 and then finally 3:11. I had some setback marathons in there where I actually ran MUCH slower than my PR – but the point is that you want to knock off time slowly in the marathon. HUGE PR’s are nice but small PR’s should be celebrated. I want to respect my body when it comes to running. My goal is to be the 80 year old grandma winning my age group at races!
Do you use McMillan’s site? Is there another site you use instead of his? Thoughts on figuring out your training paces? Questions?