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How to

Running 101: How to improve running pace

Woman running on a trail on the coast

As a new runner, one of the trickiest skills is learning how to pace yourself and when to run at certain paces. Going too fast all the time might leave you injured or burned out. Too slow, and you might not achieve your goals. Running at a steady, medium pace all the time isn't quite a Goldilocks solution, either. Don't stress it, though: We've got you covered with our tips on how to improve running pace.

Ready to improve your running pace? Follow these five tips for steadier, faster results.

Test yourself on the track

If you've been running consistently for a few months, find a nearby track and, after a quick warmup, run a hard, but steady, mile. Use this average mile time as a base metric for all your speedwork (runner jargon for running faster in short sections) going forward. There are plenty of online pace calculators where you can plug in your time and figure out paces from there. Every four to six weeks, go back and repeat the one-mile test so you can adjust as you improve.

Run your easy runs easy

The number one mistake new runners make is going too fast on easy days. If you're following a training plan that includes some speedwork, you'll need your easy days to recover. This will allow you to come into your speed sessions ready to go and get the most out of your miles.

Try some tempo runs

One of the OG types of speedwork, a tempo session is a great way to improve your running pace. Tempo doesn't mean following a specific pace, but rather running "comfortably hard" following a warmup. Aim for two to three miles of tempo running once a week and watch yourself improve at sustaining that harder pace for longer over time.

Man running by a brick wall

Sign up for a race

Even if you don't feel quite ready to try racing, it's a perfect setting for learning how to improve your running pace. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and go too hard early in the race, then pay the price at the end. That's OK; practice makes perfect, and the more you race, the more confident and capable you will become running at certain paces.

Hire a coach

If you're still struggling to improve your running pace, having a coach — or even an online training plan — will help you dial in the right mix of hard days and easy days in order to develop your pacing skills. Check in with your local running store for programs and coaching suggestions, or check out our training plans designed for newer runners by experienced coaches. Before you know it, you'll be drilling down to the optimal pace like a pro.

On the surface, learning to improve your running pace might appear like a tall order, but by following our tips and focusing on steady improvements over time, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can improve.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

Written By
Amanda Loudin

Health and science writer

Amanda Loudin running in a forest

I've been a runner for more than two decades and a journalist for just as long. I'm also a certified running coach and nothing makes me happier than marrying up writing and running. Find me on the trails with two- and four-legged friends.