How To Run Proper Pace without GPS…No, Really!

You have the GPS, the wrist chronograph, the heart rate monitor, and still you manage to go out 30 seconds a mile faster for your first couple of miles in any race you sign up for. You end up feeling very fatigued by the end of the race.How is it the guy who just ran 15:00 for the 5K race looks fresh as a daisy and is warming down another 3 miles, while you are gasping for breath like you just had a heart attack? The answer is quite simple. The person who won the race probably ran the proper pace for himself, and thus, while he may be fatigued, is not overly tired because he ran within himself. You, on the other hand, went out at a blistering 7-minute mile, when you are an 8:30-minute miler and crashed and burned somewhere around 1.5 to 2 miles of the race. So what do you do?

Well, there is nothing to worry about. This is a common problem for many newbie runners (and even for the not-so-newbie-runners as well).

Associate Not Disassociate

What you need to start doing is to start associating when you’re running and not disassociate. When dealing with many running clients and athletes over the years, I let them know that while it is fine to run with an iPod to get them through their longer runs, it is necessary to listen to their bodies and how it is responding during a run. Are they tired? Do their knees hurt? Are they winded? Are their shoulders relaxed? Etc. And yes, what pace are they running?

I am always surprised at how many people don’t time their runs or don’t know exactly how far they run. I don’t say this to be some sort of anal individual. But the more you know about how long it’s taking you to do a run, the better idea you have on your pacing.

Having lived in my town here in Ahwatukee for the past 10 years, I can tell you how far it is from nearly any point in the area because I have run it; and even if I haven’t run that exact route, I can estimate within a quarter mile after I have finished a route because I know my internal clock so well.

Hit the Track

The track is the best place to learn pacing and get in touch with your inner-Timex. The reason for this is because you always know where you are on a track and it’s a flat surface.

What I do many times is simply let people learn from their mistakes. when I have had adult track groups many of my workout are with the intention of learning proper pace. What I may say to my athletes is we are going to do 10-12 x 400s or 5 x 800s with a 2-3 minute rest and I want them all within 2-3 seconds of each other. I usually tell them to base their pacing on their 5K times. If they have not run a 5k in a while, I let them know that they can roughly drop or add 20 seconds per mile for each major running event to find their average mile pace for a distance they haven’t run yet (example: If they run a 7:00 pace 10K, this would mean they could roughly run a 6:40 pace 5K or 7:20s for a 1/2 marathon).

What inevitably happens to many new runners to the track is they go out way too fast. I will query something sarcastic, but with a smile:

That was just a 90-second 400-meters, are you a sub 19-minute 5k runner?

Usually the answer is:

No, I’m a 24 minute 5K runner (or something to that regard)

I tell them to slow down. Or I will simply say to the entire group after their first interval:

If you are breathing hard and bent over you are going way too fast – slow down, remember we are doing 10-12 of these, not just a couple.

This method is by no means the only way to work on the internal clock, but I do find athletes learn how to maximize their bodies depending on how far we are running. As the group gets more comfortable with their pacing, I will do workouts where we drop their 400s, 600s, 800s by 1-2 seconds each interval. I tell them to start a bit slower than their average. 5K pace and that their last few should be definitely below their 5k pace by quite a bit (5-10 seconds). Amazingly, most people who have been to these track workouts after only a few weeks understand what their bodies can handle and push themselves to limits they didn’t realize they could get too.

Other Ways to Work on Pacing (Internal Clock)

1. Don’t look at your watch when you are doing a run and tell yourself you want to run at X pace and see how close you come to that when you are finished.

2. While doing a long run hit your lap button when you’re at a location where you know how far it is to run a mile. When you get to that ending mark, hit your lap button again and see if the pace you were running that mile in was pretty accurate.

3. Do intervals without looking at your watch after the first few times and see how even you are running.

4. When first trying to learn pace, map out runs beforehand and know the mile markers. This way you can see what pace you are running when you are not pushing and this becomes your base pace. Once you know this base pace, then you can internally know what paces you are running when you are pushing it or easing off.

star wars In the immortal words of Obi-Wan Kenobi:

Feel the Force, Luke…Let Go

But for us it’s more like Feel the Pace, (insert your name here)…Let Go!







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