Understanding how to run the proper pace is one of the more challenging, yet necessary, aspects of our sport. Every race, countless participants will go out too hard and pay the price at the end. But learning to pace yourself is important for more than just running a fast race, it can also allow you to train more effectively. If you run the correct pace for your ability level, you will be able to train longer without getting inured, which is the most effective way to boost fitness.
Also, people who run too hard tend to get upset with running quicker. This makes sense: if you were always in oxygen debt, running would never be fun. But if you always run your correct pace, running can be relaxing, cathartic, uplifting and deeply satisfying.
But how does one go about teaching oneself to run the correct pace? The most important indicator of proper pace is found by studying your own breathing. On an easy run, breathing should be relaxed. You should never be straining on an easy run; just focus on enjoying the activity. In a race, though, breathing may be a bit more labored, yet not out of control.
Finding the correct pace during a race can be challenging. It is easy to get excited at the beginning and forget to listen to your body. In order to learn how your body feels at race pace, utilize a local track for interval workouts.
If your goal is to run a 5K, first pick a realistic 5K goal pace. In this case, we will use 10 minutes per mile as an example. At the track, do 6x800 meters at goal 5K race pace (5 minutes for 800m) with 2 minutes rest in between repeats. For the first two reps, check your watch every 200 meters to make sure you are on pace. Each 200m should be done in 75 seconds. While you are running these reps, note your breathing and how the muscles in your arms and legs feel. For the next two reps, only check your split at the 400 meter mark (it should be 2:30).
Once again, study your body. For the final two reps, try to run the whole 800 meters without checking your watch until the end. See how close to 5 minutes you can get.
Workouts such as these can be used to teach yourself how you are supposed to feel at race pace. This can lead to improved race times and a greater understanding of your own fitness level.