Q: What is the best way to pace when I run a race?
Pacing is a great way to hit your race goals or set a new personal-best time, but it doesn’t come easy. Pacing takes practice and discipline. There are many philosophies on pacing.
My philosophy is to look at world records and mimic the strategy that these athletes use to produce their best times. When you look at world records from the 800-meter all the way through the marathon, you find that those runners run negative splits. That means they run the second half of the race faster than the first half. The trick is to run only 1-2 percent faster during the second half. Follow these tips to run the second half of your race faster than the first half:
1. Find Your Pace
Start by running a one-mile time trial “all out” to get your current fitness level. Once you have your time, use an online calculator to predict your pace for the distance you will be running (pacing calculators are available at www.runnersworld.com, www.mcmillanrunning.com, and other sites). Another option is to talk to an experienced coach to give you guidance and set realistic pacing goals. He or she will help you evaluate your training routine, look at your goals and give you a more precise pacing plan than an online calculator or chart.
2. Practice Running at Your Pace
A good way to practice is to run tempo runs for time on an out-and-back course. This is a good training session to see if you are starting too fast or too slow. I like doing this workout with a group. Tempo runs should be at least 20 minutes and no more than 60 minutes. Runners run half the distance “out,” and then turn around and run back to the start. Let’s say, for example, that you run two miles out and two miles back, and your goal is to run 9-minute miles. If you pace yourself correctly, you will get back to where you started or just past within 36 minutes. If you don’t make it back to the start within 36 minutes, work on going out a little slower. If you reach the 36-minute mark and are way past where you started, you need to start a little faster.
3. Stay Controlled in the Early Part of Your Race
Be confident in your training and don’t push from the start. Let the race develop. Start out at a controlled pace, slowly accelerate so that you are at goal pace when you reach about one-third of the full distance. When you reach about 600-800 meters from the finish (about a half mile out), start your kick and leave everything you have out on the course. I often see runners wait until they see the finish line to start their sprint, which leaves a good amount of time on the race course.
John Ruibal, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is a registered dietitian and is board-certified in sports nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. He coordinates the distance running classes available at both iRun Texas locations in San Antonio. He has been running for more than 40 years and coaching for 25. To connect with John or learn more about his classes, visit www.iruntexas.net.