Running Training Paces Explained

The different running training paces explained
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Paces Explained

Do you ever look at a training plan, or scroll through Strava and see “ten miles easy” or “seven miles with a four miles at threshold pace” and wonder what that all means? Well here is a list of the different training run paces you can do, why you should do them and when you should do them.

Easy Pace Run

What speed is an easy pace run? Slower than marathon pace.

How difficult should an easy pace run feel? 2/10

What are the benefits of easy paced runs? Running at an easy pace improves your aerobic fitness by getting miles into your legs. It also helps your legs recover from faster or harder runs and relieves the aches.

When should you run at easy pace? You should run at an easy pace when warming up and cooling down, during long marathon training runs, recovery runs, and in runs a day or two after a hard race.

Steady Pace Runs

What speed is a steady pace run? Steady paced runs should be somewhere between half marathon and marathon pace.

How difficult should a steady pace run feel? 4/10

What are the benefits of a steady pace run? Steady pace runs are better than easy runs for weight loss. They also mean you can run more miles in a shorter time period. When marathon or half marathon training, they stop your legs getting too accustomed to slow running, meaning it’s not so hard to pick the pace up for faster sessions or races.

When should you run at a steady pace? You should run at a steady pace when marathon or half marathon training; mix them up with slow runs. When 5k-10k training do all your long runs at this pace, other than recovery runs.

Tempo/Threshold Pace Runs

What speed is a tempo or threshold pace run? Tempo or threshold pace is about the pace you could hold for a one hour race; ‘comfortably hard’.

How difficult should Tempo or Threshold Pace Runs feel? 7/10

What are the benefits of Tempo or Threshold Pace Runs? Running at Tempo or Threshold Pace increases your lactate threshold. This is the point where your lactic acid levels increase faster that your body is able to clear them. A higher lactate threshold means hard racing becomes easier.

When should you run at Tempo or Threshold pace? For 5k-10k runners it’s a good idea to do a 6-10 mile threshold run on weeks when you don’t have a race. The 6-10 miles should include a mile or two or warm up and cool down. Longer distance runners should consider threshold reps: you can get more out of a long run by throwing in 2-3×3 mile tempo reps with a mile or two easy recovery in between.

Fartlek or Intervals Pace

What speed is fartlek or intervals pace? Fartlek or Intervals pace is between the fastest you could run for a minute to the fastest you could run for five minutes, depending on the length of interval you’re doing.

How difficult should intervals pace feel? 9/10

What are the benefits of running at intervals pace? Running at intervals pace improves your VO2 max – this is the rate at which your heart can pump oxygen to your muscles. It also increases your top speed which makes it easier to run at slightly slower speeds. It also conditions your lungs; if they can cope with the rapid changes of pace of a fartlek or intervals session, they’ll handle shorter races with more ease.

When should you run at intervals pace? Any time you want to be able to run faster! A session every week to ten days is a good idea for any runner. Consider making some of these sessions a hill rep session; this will make running up hills in races seem much easier and they will also force you into a better technique as it’s very difficult to run quickly up hills with poor form.

what you need to know
  • Easy running is slower than marathon pace and is used for warm ups, warm downs, recovery runs and long runs where you want to get miles in your legs

  • Steady running is between half marathon and marathon pace and helps you get some variety of training pace

  • Tempo/threshold runs are at one hour race pace and improve your lactate threshold

  • Intervals/fartlek are at 1-5 minute race pace, improve your top speed and VO2 max

  • A thorough training plan will include all of these different types of training paces!

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