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It’s all about the Pace

It’s all about the Pace…

Over the years I’ve learnt a lot about pacing myself, and even more about pacing other people. Pace is such an important part of a race strategy, so I want to share some of my thoughts with you below.

Why is Pace important?

I like to think of Pace as the way in which we manage our energy. Our bodies naturally hold a certain amount of energy, which means we can remain active for a set period of time before our bodies tire, slowing us down. There are many important factors that contribute to our energy levels, and most runners will understand the importance of nutrition and hydration, to keep topping up our energy levels. Training is also an important factor to make our bodies more efficient.

Pace is the final piece to this puzzle. Think of your body like a car engine. How long you can travel will depend on how much fuel you put in, and how many upgrades you have in the car. But if you drive off at full throttle you will make huge progress quickly, but ultimately you will run out of fuel quickly.

Finding that level of efficiency is important in running, and that is why pace is important.

How to know your pace?

The pace you run will be dependent on the distance you are running. You will be able to maintain a faster pace the shorter the distance, so naturally as you increase the distance you need to slow your pace. You need to work out your target time, and calculate your pace depending on your target.

There is no hard or fast rule on pace, and this is different for everyone. Some people are good at maintaining speed whilst they increase distance, meanwhile others are able to run disproportionately faster over shorter distances. This all comes down to training and experience. You can look online to work out basic calculations based on previous distances, so for example if you have ran a half marathon you would roughly double the time and add 20 minutes. But this is just a gauge, and you would play around with this based on how your training goes.

I like to break up training into two distinct types, distance and speed. I try not to confuse the two, and focus on the run at hand. So when I do a longer run I concentrate on time on feet, the distance, and I’m not worried about the pace. When I do speed work I like to train fast, which will improve natural pace.

In training gauge how comfortable a pace is, and you can pick up the pace as you improve, which may mean reevaluating your target.

How to pace yourself on race day

When it comes to race day the first thing you need to do is know what pace you want to run. Don’t turn up not knowing what your target is. Be confident and realistic about your target. But stickto a plan based on an even pace. Some people make a mistake of trying to start faster because they know they will slow at the end, creating a positive split. The reason you slow down is because you have gone off to fast and burnt too much energy. Instead try running at an even pace throughout, and if you feel good towards the end you can pick up the pace and go for a negative split, which is a faster second half.

Dont start off too fast. We all fall for this trap by getting excited and carried away at the beginning of a race. Try to stay calm, and if anything go off slower, ease yourself into your pace. Unless of course you are running a shorter distance and going all out, you will have plenty of time to make up pace, and you don’t want to burn too much energy at the beginning.

During the run I would urge you to ask yourself one question, and continue to ask yourself throughout the race: “Can you maintain this pace until the end of the race?”

If the answer is no, you are probably going too fast. You need to slow down, otherwise you are going to start suffering. Remember your body is far more capably than your mind allows it to be, so if you start doubting yourself, if you think you will slow, then you will slow.
If the answer is yes then you are probably not going fast enough. You could probably afford to pick up the pace.

If the answer is maybe, then just maybe you are on for a PB and you need to hold on tight. When you are going for a PB there should be an element of doubt, as you are pushing yourself to the limit, but you need to be confident and believe in yourself.

What to expect from a pacer

Despite what I have said above about pacing yourself, I would always recommend following a pacer. A pacer will take away the stresses of the race so all you have to worry about is putting one foot in front of another. But a pacer is so much more than someone to keep you running an even pace and hitting your target. Yes, this is the fundamental role of a pacer, but they are there to support, for motivation, and to help you stay confidence and happy throughout. If you are smiling you will be able to keep going for longer. Remember that a lot of the battle come race day is in your mind, so maintaining a positive attitude and not having to worry about what you are doing, takes a lot of pressure off you.

When you are running with a pacer they can keep you updated with your mile / km splits, stop you going off too fast, help you adjust your pace through water stations and up and down hills. And generally just be there for you.

But I always tell my group to look around them at the start. Everyone around you will be aiming for the same or similar goal as you, so build friendships, run together and support each other so we can all achieve our target.

I hope this Blog has helped to answer some questions about Pace. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.

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Paul Addicott
Paul Addicott
Pacer – 72 and counting. Motivator. Running blog award winner. Iron Man.

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