How to Perfect Pacing for Running

Race jitters surround you at the starting line as runners bounce in place and do some final stretching. The countdown begins and you set out for the race—but are you too fast from the start? Too slow?

Pacing strategy is an important part of race day, and it can mean setting a PR or crawling across the finish line with an empty tank. Here are some tips for your next race strategy.

If You Have Issues Starting Out Too Quickly:

Race day conditions can make you spring from the starting line with too much speed. The crowd, the noise, your adrenaline and the atmosphere will make it feel like you're running at a normal pace, but you may really be pushing your pace too fast too early in the race.

During a half marathon, you'll want to aim to run conservatively for the first three miles, or about five to 10 seconds slower than your goal finishing pace.

During a marathon, you should aim to run a pace that is about 10 to 15 seconds slower per mile than your goal pace for the first three or four miles.

How to do it: Do a few workouts that simulate your goal pace. Tempo runs will help train your body to work at that pace. On race day, warm up with a lap at your goal pace, so you know what it feels like and your body is warmed up to the pace. As you race, aim to run slower than your goal pace for the first few miles and then pick up the pace throughout the remainder of the race.

More: Training for Destination Races

If You Have Issues Starting Out Too Slowly:

If you find you have too much energy at the finish line, your conservative pacing probably cost you a personal best. In many races, it's a smart strategy to run a conservative first few miles, But you don't want to sell yourself short by running too slowly for too long and have unused energy left at the end of the race.

In a short race, such as a 5K, you should aim to run the first mile 3 percent faster than your goal pace, but no more than 6 percent faster. A 2006 study showed that the speedier first mile lead to a faster overall time.

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About the Author

Amanda Casanova

Amanda Casanova is a writer and journalist living in the Dallas, Texas area. She has worked for the Houston Chronicle, the Abilene Reporter-News and the Galveston County Daily News. She is an active runner and regularly competes in races in north Texas. She is currently training for her first half marathon. She blogs at and tweets at @acasanova10.

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