Your Pace or Mine?

Coach Lesley on her way to 2nd Overall at the Women of Wonder 5k! Photo courtesy of Keith K.

Coach, what pace do you think i should do this race?

This is a frequent question and the answer depends on a lot of different factors. These factors depend on where you are in a training cycle, your racing experience and what works best for you. Pacing correctly for a race takes time to learn.

if you are a newbie to a distance or an event there are a lot of unknowns as you approach a new distance goal. Generally the safest plan is to go out at a pace you feel confident that you can hold knowing that the combination of tapering and the excitement of the event will carry you along. If you make it to 2/3 of the distance and feel great, speed up! Build a pace plan and stick to it especially in those critical first couple miles. Going out even 20 seconds faster per mile for your first mile can add minutes per mile to the end of your race.

Coach Lesley sets her pace by making a deal with herself that whatever she runs the first mile in, the miles after that have to be the same or faster. Thus she keeps herself from going out too fast. Depending on the day, this may be a bit slower or faster than her goals.

Another client knows that she does better by going out at an slightly more aggressive pace knowing that she may slow during the race. However if it all comes together, she’ll be able to hold the goal race pace. With experience she has learned that she can have a difficult time shifting to a harder pace even if well trained to it. The default race pace for her is a moderate pace instead of hard.  For her, it pays to take a chance.

Negative splits (ie running faster towards the end of your race) is generally the recommended pacing strategy. Sure enough this is how world records are set! From the above examples you can see that there are many ways to have a successful pacing strategy and it really comes down to learning what works for you both mentally and physically.

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