Pacing Strategies for Popular Running Distances

You can do everything right leading up to an event only to blow it on race day. You can train properly in the months before the race; you can sleep well in the days leading up to the event; you can eat and drink the right things to ensure optimal energy; you can stay off your feet the day before the race.

Still, runners who are diligent in all those areas can still make mistakes when it matters most.

How? Poor pacing.

No matter what distance you're training for, there's a pacing strategy to go along with it. Let's take a look at what that means for the 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon distances, so you can celebrate race-day success.

5K

The 5K (3.1 miles) is one of the shorter race distances. The good news is that because the race is short, there isn't a lot of time for things to go wrong. Fueling during the race isn't necessary, but depending on the conditions, hydrating at least once during the event (or up to every mile) can help.

The bad news is that because the race is so short, the effort level required is very high. In fact, the 5K is raced fairly close to maximum effort, or the red zone. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being very easy and 10 being maximum effort, a 5K is raced in the 9 to 10 range.

Even with a shorter race like the 5K, be careful about going out too fast. Pick a goal time and break it down to an average minute/mile pace. Try to run relatively even splits throughout the race. Don't start any slower than 5 to 10 seconds per mile slower than goal pace; then hit goal pace for the second mile and run as fast or faster than goal pace in the final mile.

More: 14 Tips to Prepare for Your First 5K

10K

The 10K (6.2 miles) is a tough distance. Even though it's twice as long as the 5K, the 10K is only run about 15 to 20 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace. This means the 10K can be quite a painful race!

Because the 10K is a relatively short distance, fueling is not paramount. However, hydration is important for optimal performance and should be done every mile or every other mile. The 10K is raced below maximum effort and more in the orange/borderline red zone. On a scale of 1 to 10, the 10K is raced in the 8 to 9 range.

Just like the 5K, be careful about going out too fast in the 10K and aim for relatively even splits. Once you determine an average minute/mile pace, start the 10K no more than 5 to 10 seconds per mile slower than goal pace. Gradually pick up the pace to be running at goal pace by miles 3 or 4; then continue to accelerate faster than goal pace in the final mile(s).

More: 9 Keys to Running Your Best 10K

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