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New to running

Why it's important to understand running pace

Two runners on an empty road

As a new runner, once you enter the recreational running scene and consider training for a short race, you'll quickly become acquainted with the term "running pace." Using pace to measure your speed is much easier than measuring miles per hour, and understanding your personal pace will help you gauge longer distance runs, know how fast you should run during a race, and enable you to better track your progress over time.

What is running pace, and why does it matter?

Pace can be simply defined as how fast you're running, and it's typically expressed as the average amount of time it takes for you to run one mile during a longer run.

While you don't want to become too preoccupied with numbers, there are several benefits to understanding pace. Primarily, knowing your pace can help you gauge how long it will take to run a certain distance and stay on track when racing. Plus, tracking your improvement over time can be one of the most rewarding parts of your running journey.

For runners of all types, most runs should be kept at an easy pace, around one to two minutes slower per mile than your race pace. One way to figure out this easy pace is the talk test. When out for a run, can you easily hold a conversation with your running partner or sing along to your playlist? If not, that's a sign to slow down and dial the pace back.

Put your speed to the test

But what if you haven't been timing your runs or have no idea where to start when it comes to figuring out your running pace? It can be hard to figure out your running pace before putting your fitness to the test, so once you've built up some distance and endurance through regular runs, try signing up for a short live or virtual race, such as a 5K, or conduct a time trial on your own by timing your fastest run over a known multi-mile distance.

After completing your fast effort, take a look at your "splits," or the time it took to run each mile. Did you run even splits the whole time? Perhaps negative splits, where your last miles were faster than the first ones? Or did you fizzle out after a fast start and struggle to finish? If the latter, that can be a sign you still need to dial back your running pace in training to build endurance and save the fast efforts for your harder workouts.

Still unsure about all these numbers? Consider sharing your data with a running coach or trainer. With proper guidance, you can learn how to maintain different paces as your fitness improves and grow into a faster runner over time.

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
Emilia Benton

Contributing Writer

Emilia Benton Running

I'm a Houston, Texas, native who's run 10 marathons and 30-something half marathons, with 3:45 and 1:39 personal bests and a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I'm also a freelance health and fitness journalist and a lover of country music, baking, and world travel.