Every run gives you the chance to practice your pacing.

The different weekly runs you do give you a chance to work on various types of pacing.

Pacing is important not only for those of us who want to race personal best, but also for those who simply want to complete a set distance. Many runners can tell you that they hit a wall at the end of the race and felt like they were walking or crawling to the finish. One excellent way to avoid this is to start out at the appropriate pace at the beginning of the race.

My favorite pacing work out is a start slow – finish fast run. Every mile gets progressively faster. It’s not as easy though as turning off your brain and just pushing a tiny bit faster for each mile, you have to account for the terrain you are running on. So if you are running uphill on mile 2 of the run but not on mile 3 you may be putting forth more effort on the second mile and a little less on the 3rd mile. The goal is to have the pace get faster each mile no matter the terrain. There are pacing runs that you can practice putting forth a little more effort each mile, not accounting for terrain and end up with splits that may go up and down – this is a run where you work on upping your effort each mile.

There are also even effort runs, where you pace will likely get faster each mile as your body warms up. The effort stays the same but the pace might not – it can get faster and slower based on the terrain.

You don’t have to set out to work on pacing, to actually work on pacing. You can incorporate pacing work into your other weekly runs!

Sunday I set out to work on starting slow and finishing fast – taking into account the terrain. It was an easy 6 mile run so I started out in my easy pace zone and worked down faster each mile.

  • mile 1: 8:19
  • mile 2: 8:07
  • mile 3: 7:41
  • mile 4: 6:58
  • mile 5: 6:38
  • mile 6: 6:09

average – 7:18 – 43:55 total time


If I had run a 6:09 first mile the last miles would have most likely been in the 10’s. Starting slow, working in to the pace, and finishing fast is the way that the majority of runners should race, so it makes sense to practice it. Though my mile pace times may be faster or slower than yours, the principles are the same. Work on pacing during training so you know how to do it during a race.

There are TONS of ways to practicing pacing. What are some of the pacing methods that you work on each week?

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  1. Ha! When I’m running at 8:19 pace I’m basically sprinting! :) This is a great post. I love doing this type of pacing run. It’s great to practice finishing faster than you started, because who doesn’t love passing people in the last third of the race?

  2. For my long runs I start off the first mile very slow to warm-up, then try to keep an easy effort the first half and run the second half faster, building to my last mile being my fastest. For my last half-marathon I followed your start slow and ramp each mile up a bit more technique and it was perfect! I finished at a 20 second/mile faster pace than I thought I could run. I wonder though – when you have a specific time you want to run your race in, do you figure out beforehand exactly what you want to run each of your miles in?

  3. I always start my long runs off recently slow and give my legs time to get into it! Then I started to gradually pick up the past and then last 2 weeks of long runs I have finished the last 4-5 miles each faster than the last. During the week sometimes I will do my pacing on a treadmill that way it allows me to make sure I am pacing correctly. I really like progression runs and they help to keep things interesting on the treadmill!

  4. Definitely a great post. I think it says something that the training groups in Kenya (arguably the greatest training groups in the world) pretty regularly literally start their long runs at a walk, and progress down to 4:50 (or faster pace) for the last few miles.

    In terms of racing, I think the best way to get into a race competitively — particularly longer races — is to get out a little conservatively, maybe (for example) 10 seconds slower per mile than your goal pace for the first mile, and then progress from there. That allows you to not get in over your head to early, and also — as Amanda said in the first comment — who doesn’t like moving past people in the last third of the race?

  5. Progressive runs are probably my favorite as well :) Tempo/race pace usually feels extra-painful the first bit if you jump straight into it, so I like the way progressive runs let you ease into the faster pace. I’m running my 2nd half-marathon in a few weeks and hope that using a similar pacing strategy will help with feeling stronger the last few miles!

  6. I have my high school kids that I coach do intervals at race pace… At first it feels so easy but as the workout progresses and the lactic acid builds, they begin to feel the pain. Many do the workout wrong by running the first few sets too hard so then they do not finish the workout at the right pace!! (Which is what you were explaining in the case of starting a run at 6:10 as opposed to finishing)

  7. I love all your advice!!! I always say that I only one pace. So not true!! I really need to start to pick up my pace at the of my runs.

  8. I did something like this with my long run on Sunday, too! I went without a watch but took my phone and used a GPS running app so it would tell me my average pace after each mile, and I focused on starting slow and trying to run each mile faster than the last. I didn’t quite succeed, but I started at a 9:47 average pace and worked down to a 9:05 average with a few 8:45ish miles in there, so in that regard it was a success. There was a pretty technical trail around mile 5 and the last mile was almost all uphill, so it ended up being more of an “increase the effort” run than a “speed up” run, but I’ll take it!

  9. I love this post. I’ve been running for 6+ years now and not until this past year have I really started focusing on pacing myself. Although I’m not nearly as fast as you, I love starting out slower, and then with each miler pushing myself a little more!

  10. Great post! I love that you have started this. I do a tempo run once a week and during my three mile faster pace I try to hit my numbers from the previous week. After a few weeks when that’s comfortable, I try to increase the tempo pace by a few seconds. I haven’t worked on speed or pace for several years, and I can already feel the difference. :-)

  11. I need help with pacing! Sometimes I feel like I’m going fast, and I’m not. Any tips on knowing how to pace? I’m not good at “feeling it”!

  12. You’re pretty fast! I know before I threw out my back, I kept a pace of 13mins, but even then it was pretty difficult. Great post!

  13. I have been running off and on since 2003 and it was just recently that I learned or even thought of the concept that a pace could be slower at first and quicker later. I tended to just push myself as much as I could in the beginning, even though really that first mile always feels terrible compared to the others. I never even thought, if the first mile feels tougher, make it slower. I will have to work on this. Thanks!

  14. Thanks for the great tips. I look forward to implementing them in my next run. I always hit a wall when I am doing my long runs or even in races. Keep up the good work!

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