Paces Galore!

I have received some comments and emails lately asking about the different paces I use during training and I thought it deserved a post on it’s own! 

I was even more sure of this when I was trying to explain to a coworker the other day about my training plan and pretty much just ended up saying “it’s complicated.”  It’s not the easiest to be succinct about.

How do you explain this in 5 minutes?
boston training plan1

When I first started running (while training for my first marathon), I just ran.  All my runs were typically done around the same pace and every so often I would push it to try to make it faster, but really I was just running and getting the miles in.  That is definitely fine and I actually look forward to base building or times when I am not on a plan and can just run… it’s refreshing!  But marathon training is a different story for me now, and I like it! 

A lot of the paces are based on race times.  I am a big fan of the McMillan Running Calculator and use it A LOT for figuring out my paces.  Sometimes I base it on a recent race and sometimes I base it on a goal time.  The important thing to remember if you base your training paces on a goal time is to make sure that the goal time is an achievable one. You don’t want to be running faster than your ability all the time or you will lose the benefits of your workouts and will struggle with them.  Also don’t forget that as you continue to train you most likely will get faster during the cycle so your training paces may need to be adjusted.

My training plan is full of different acronyms that mean different things, so this will be the guide to them:

Easy (E): easy runs should be easy.  You should be able to talk through them and I always like to make it feel like I am going too slow.  If I feel like I am running slow then that’s good, maybe even go a little slower… the slower the better!  I have been trying to make these 1 minute+ slower than goal marathon pace as a general measure.  Some days after a tough workout when these runs are really necessary, there is no fighting with my legs, they will just run slow.  I know a lot of people who use heart rate monitors during these runs to make sure they know they are going easy enough. 

General Aerobic (GA): I like to call these my “happy pace” runs… they are my favorite!  These are the runs where I can just run how I feel.  Sometimes they are a little slower but most of the time I am just running.  Not too hard, not too easy, just in the middle. 

Distance: This is a term the BAA plan I have based my training off of uses and you will see on my training plans.  It kind of falls somewhere in the general aerobic/easy range and are pretty flexible pace wise.  I usually assign one of those paces before I start based on what I ran the day before, what is coming up the next day, and how my body is feeling that day.

Lactate Threshold/tempo (LT/T): In the Pfitzinger plans he defines lactate threshold as 15k – half marathon pace.  I typically try to do my tempo runs starting at or just above half marathon pace and slowly working my way down.  These runs always include a warm up and cool down. 

Intervals (10k/5k):  There are different workouts for intervals, some go faster at 5k pace and some go a little slower at 10k pace.  I try to do these around what my pace would be for a race of that distance and definitely use the McMillan Calculator for that.

Long: There are many different schools of thought regarding long runs: run 20% slower than goal pace, run at marathon pace, run 45 seconds slower than marathon pace… a lot of theories, a lot of studies, and a lot of options. 

I think it all comes down to (like everything else in this sport) what works best for you.  I tried running my long runs really slow one summer and I hated it.  I was dreading my long runs, I felt slow ALL the time and I just was not happy.  I also am not a big fan of doing an entire long run at race pace, I feel like it just takes too much out of me for training the next week. 

For me personally, I have settled somewhere in the middle and just let myself run how I feel, typically within 30 – 45 seconds of my goal race pace, sometimes faster, sometimes slower.  I always try to make the second half faster than the first and let myself warm up for a couple miles and have runs where my goal is to finish at marathon pace or a little faster.  Some long runs I deliberately do easier than others and some I throw in faster miles in the middle, a lot of it depending on how I feel, what my week has looked like and what the route is I am running.  Mixing it up keeps things interesting! 

Medium Long (ML): I typically approach these pretty much the same as long runs. 

I think that’s it when it comes to my training plan acronyms and paces! 

I just added a new page called My Current Training (as well as organized and added a few others) and it shows the details of my Boston training as I go with the weekly updates linked.  I think it will be an easy way to see it in a comprehensive view for anyone interested.

How do you train?  Do you just run or do you
have specific paces for most runs? 

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25 Responses to Paces Galore!

  1. AR January 24, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    I’m right with you on everything here!

    I also try and get a good idea of where my HR *should* be for all these paces in the event that weather, etc keeps me from doing what I’ve got planned.

  2. erika January 24, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    I was going to try and follow a complicated plan this time, but I’m having trouble finding motivation…those are most of the same categories on my plan:)

  3. Sheenasheen January 24, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    I am training for my first marathon and I basically just run. On my shorter runs I push it harder and I’m usually at about a minute faster per mile. I would love to be able to run faster on my longer runs. Do you suggest I try a more complicated plan?

    • Aron January 26, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

      I think it’s up to you! I just ran most of my runs at whatever pace I wanted during my first round marathon training. I think I would pick up the pace during one run a week, but most were about the same. Just depends on your goals, schedule, experience, etc!

  4. Karyn January 24, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    when i’m in training i use specific paces…or at least i try to. i have different effort levels i guess as i don’t actually know how fast i’m running until i finish my run. when i’m not in training i just run and not even worry about effort.

  5. Nelly January 24, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Great post! I’ve only done one marathon so far using the Hal Higdon novice plan, so I just ran all of my runs except for the long runs at the same effort. I’m now reading the Pfitzinger book Advanced Marathoning and Run Faster, so I’m going to try to follow one of their training plans and use the different pace runs that the plans call for. I’m really curious to see how much I improve, I think I will improve a lot. And can you put this post under your “favorite posts” tab? I think this is a really useful post.

  6. Jen January 24, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    Really great post. It’s always helpful to see how other people train differently. Thanks!

  7. Christine January 25, 2011 at 4:27 am #

    I recently found the calculator as well and LOVE it, it’s very helpful!

  8. Nancy January 25, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    It may be complicated but it sure works for you because you rock races!!

    In the past I just did one speed day and then the rest were just getting in the miles with a long run on the weekend. This time I am training a little differently for my half and adding in two days of speed work. On Mondays I do a ladder workout and then Wednesdays I do either tempo or speed drills. Also on long runs I work in faster intervals and am bringing up my base pace. I am hoping that this will result in a sub 1:55 half….here’s to hoping!!

    • Aron January 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      I bet it will!!! :)

  9. Morgan January 25, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    What a great write up about paces girl! I remember when I was bumbling through my first attempt at different paces and wished I had run across a post like this that really breaks it down! You better file this somewhere handy for the newbies!

    • Aron January 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      Maybe I should add a “for the newbies” category, or something on that order, to organize posts like this that could be helpful :) good idea!

  10. Marlene January 25, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    I generally follow a lot of these same guidelines for pacing. The days where I get to go out and just run how I feel are always refreshing, but at the same time I love to have “assigned” paces during training.

    Awesome summary!!!

    Now to catch up on everything I missed while I was away. :)

  11. Kristy January 25, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    My paces for tempo, speed, and long runs are similar to what you said above (not as fast as you but you get the idea :) )

    I once ran long runs slow too and it was very frustrating. I think this is fine if your goal is to finish a marathon but when you have a goal time in mind you need to step up your long runs\ pace. I like doing fast finish long runs and pick up the pace at the end. I’ll do MP long runs too but just not every weekend.

  12. the dawn January 25, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    perfect! it can be super overwhelming when you are staring at a plan for the first time…. with the different distances and paces. thanks for making such a useful post about it.

    i like how every day there is a range of distances rather than a set one. although, i’m pretty sure i would guilt myself into the higher mileage. although i know that on an “off” day it would be so nice to have a reasonable expectation for the run.

    love the plan!

  13. John at Hella Sound January 25, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    That you have favorite called “happy pace” shows how deeply in love with running you are. And it seems to truly love you right back. Big ups on your SF Marathon Ambassadorship—that is extremely cool.

  14. Joanne January 25, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    I work with a trainer so for my first marathon and in getting ready for Boston, he has me doing all the pace/speed work. But I really would be quite fine with just running to log the miles and build endurance rather than get so technical about it. I just don’t have enough confidence to go with that.. meaning, that the pace work is building confidence that I will actually do ok in a race. I’m not even that competitive but I don’t want to be last ;)

  15. nicole January 25, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    i couldnt agree more! my happy place is where i like to run! :)

  16. Jess January 25, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    I used to try running slow for long runs, but now I aim for a “faster than easy” pace and just go by feel.

  17. Meghan January 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Great post! I don’t use a plan that uses as many types of runs, so it’s nice to hear about how many options there are to increase our abilities. I even find intervals complicated, because I think I should run a 400m interval at a different pace than an 800m interval, etc. So many combinations of distances and paces!

  18. Bethany January 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    right now i feel like i am JUST running! Due to poor footing i feel like i haven’t got in a goo tempo run or anything in awhile! and we have more snow coming in tomorrow, possibly another foot! I’ll be glad if i can get 30 miles in this week. Keep up the good work!


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