Measure Your Milestones With One Simple Mile

A lot of beginners often wonder the best way to figure out what kind of tempo pace they need in order to train for a race. It can seem tricky if you have not yet run any races. With race participation at an all-time high, it seems that everyone races. But for every person registering for 5Ks to marathons, there are many more who just run. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you'd like to set goals to improve your speed and fitness, or run your first race, a simple mile time trial is the best option.

Knowing your mile speed can not only help you determine race goals, but even set your long-run pace. It's short enough distance that you can be recovered by the next day, and easily include it in your schedule every one to three weeks. Go to a local track or measured path. If you don't have anything with accurate mile markers, you can measure out a mile using GPS during your warmup, which should be at least 10 minutes of jogging. Memorize it by landmarks so you don't have to keep watching your GPS. Complete your warmup with some active stretching and four 100 meter strides (accelerate to 90% top speed, hold for 5 seconds and smoothly slow down). For your first time trial, hold a steady pace no faster than what feels like a medium paced run. That was easy! This is your baseline. Save a harder effort for your next one in a couple days to a week.

This time, make sure you've had at least a couple days rest or recovery runs since your last hard run or long run. Start out conservative, so you can maintain an even pace. If you can keep the same pace in the final 400 with a bit of increased effort, you are on target. If you crossed your lactic acid threshhold and slowed down, you started too fast. If you kicked a blazing final 400, you either started too slow, or are a natural racer.

Next time, try to improve upon your previous time. Try slowing down your first lap slightly, and gradually speeding up through the last half. Don't be discouraged if you don't improve every time. Pacing, rest, and weather are all variables that can affect progress. After a couple tries you should have a good idea of what you can target your next race or long run pace. Add about 33 seconds per mile for a 5K race pace, 50 seconds for 10K. Tempo runs are usually about 75-80% of 10K race pace, so add about a minute to 1:10 per mile. Marathon is harder to predict, as it depends on your training. Some competitive runners can run a marathon from 70 seconds slower than their mile time to as little as 35 seconds per mile slower. Regular folks are more often 2 to 3 minutes slower at least. 3 to 5 minutes slower than your time trial pace is a good rule of thumb for long runs and slow recovery runs.

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: Y, YMCA, Run, Running, Jog, fitness, training, time trial, pacing, mile

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