What pace should I run at?

Finding out what pace you should run at depends on a variety of factors. These include your fitness level, your experience, the distance of your run, the terrain and environment, as well as the type of run.

All runners are different

First off it’s worth noting that everyone is different and we all have different abilities so please don’t compare yourself to anyone else. This is especially true for running. You will see others speeding by whilst you may feel you’re plodding along but try to ignore that feeling. Run at your pace.

Finding your pace

If you’re new to running then you will find that you struggle to keep running after a certain amount of time, getting tired and out of breath, and this is because you haven’t yet worked out the pace you should be running at.

Listening to your breathing is a great indicator of your effort levels.

There isn’t one fixed pace for your running, so it important that you are aware that for shorter runs you will be able to maintain a faster pace, whereas for longer runs your pace will be slower. It’s also important to factor in the types of runs, such as interval training, and also the terrain on your run, with hills for example impacting on your pace.

Finding your ideal running pace

The weather will also have an impact, with extremes of hot or cold affecting how your body, lungs, and muscles operate.

Once you understand how all these factors affect your body and your performance then you will learn what pace you can run for certain distances.

Everyone has a steady pace

Even if you’re a fast runner with great endurance there will always be a point where you start to slow down. That’s just physics. If you can find a steady pace then you will generally be able to maintain that speed for longer.

Your steady pace can go up and it can go down but it’s always one that feels comfortable so if you can have a conversation with friends as you’re running then you’re doing fine but if you’re struggling to breathe then you might want to slow down a little bit.

As your natural fitness increases then your natural running pace will also increase as you get healthier.

Running at this steady pace will also:

  • Build endurance
  • Develop an efficient running style.
  • Allow your muscles to burn fat and process oxygen more efficiently
  • Train your heart and lungs to become more efficient at processing oxygen.

How to track your pace

Most runners will have a smart gps device of some sort, whether that’s a Garmin or Apple watch, or they will use an app such as Strava on their phone. These will give accurate readings of your current pace as well as the average pace for your activity.

If you don’t have a smart tracking device then you can run from A to B, timing how long it takes, and then map out the distance on Google Maps. from this you can work out your average pace. You can then put this into our Pace Calculator to work out your average page in either miles or kilometers.

It really is worth tracking your runs with a smart device though as they will do all the calculations and you can easily track your progression over time from day to day, from week to week, to month to month, so you can work out over time, even year to year, on how much you’re improving.

Don’t forget GPS is not infallible and tall buildings or trees can all throw you off your time so work out how your body feels and work out your natural pace.

Using music to measure your pace

If you’re a fan of running music then this one is for you. Build yourself a playlist that is roughly the same length as the time that you plan to be out running so if you’re planning on running 5k in 30 minutes build yourself a playlist of 8 to 10 songs that you really really love, and make the playlist around 30 minutes.

If you’re really clever then you can memorise the track lengths and know that 2 songs will roughly be a kilometer for example.

Whilst this won’t give you a scientifically accurate measurement of your pace, it will give you a fun heads-up as top your performance as you race to get to your 5k target even earlier in your playlist each time!

If you are running with headphones then consider using bone conducting ones.

Not every run is a race, unless it is

It’s important to know that not every run is a race and not every run needs to be a PB. Slow runs, hill sprints, intervals, etc all have their place and you will benefit by mixing things up.

That being said, if you are actually in a race then you may want to run your fastest, and knowing the paces you can run at will allow you to finish the race to your best potential rather than run too fast and blow-out before reaching the end.

Adem Djemil
I only started running at the age of 37, completing the Couch to 5k course, and since then I've been hooked, running 4 times a week and even completing several marathons and an ultra!