#AskCoachAsh Episode 002: All About Pacing

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RUNGRL Staff

Did you miss the latest installment of #AskCoachAsh - All About Pacing? Not to worry, we’ve collected the best advice from the session for you to review here. Get the key takeaways Coach Ash shared from the episode, including prepared tips and community-submitted questions, and be sure to tune in for more great tips for the next IG Live on our RUNGRL Instagram page.

What is pacing?

In running, pace is usually defined as the how long (number of minutes) it takes to cover a mile or kilometer.

How do I calculate my pace?

To calculate your pace, take the distance you run and divide it by how long you ran. For example, if you covered six miles in 60 minutes, divide 60 minutes by six miles to get your pace of ten minutes per mile.

What are some tools to help measure/calculate pace?

  • Running Watches

  • Running + Fitness Apps (Nike Running, Strava, MapMyRun)

  • Breathwork + understanding your body - This means understanding your pace by the way you feel or breathe. *Note: This is the most difficult⁠—I still haven’t mastered it myself⁠—but in the long term can be very beneficial to learn.

What are some common pacing terms?

There are several different types of paces: conversational, threshold, interval, goal, race pace. Conversational and race paces are the most common types to understand.

Conversational pace - Done at an easy, gentle pace where you can talk/hold a conversation. Running isn’t always about running as fast as you can. Sometimes you have to slow down to get faster in the long run. Benefits include:

  • Training cardio-respiratory systems to more efficiently absorb oxygen and remove waste

  • Strengthens muscle groups

  • Promotes good running form

  • Teaches discipline

  • Great for recovery days between harder workouts  

  • Enjoyable

Race Pace - Done at the speed at which you wish to run your race. It can be calculated in a number of different ways, but typically with a 1-mile time trial or based on your race finish goal (ex. Boston Qualifier, sub-two-hour-half marathon, or 35-minute 5K time).  

Between conversational and race pace, there are several different types of running (strides, tempo, fartlek, etc.) you can do to help you reach that goal or race pace. Especially if you’re training for a race, you’ll want to vary the types and intensity of your runs, and therefore your paces.

What are some common pacing mistakes people make?

  • Starting out too fast and losing steam too soon. Feeling tired after 10 minutes and getting discouraged? It’s likely because you came out of the gate too quickly.

  • Thinking you have to run fast all the time. You don’t! And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  • Thinking that pacing will improve quickly. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it won't. Improving pace requires consistent and intentional work over time.

    Related Post: Pace of Mind: You Don’t Have to Run Fast to be a Runner

How do I make adjustments on the treadmill to match my road pace?

If you wear a watch or use an app like Strava, Nike Running or Map My Run, you should be able to fairly easily translate your road pace to the treadmill. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re looking to mimic outdoor on the treadmill, you’ll want to have the tread on a one percent incline. Breaking it down:

  • I always reference the 10-minute mile pace as a starting guide, which on the treadmill translates to 6.0 mph.

  • In general, the faster you’re running on the road, the higher the number will be on the treadmill:

    • 8-minute road mile = 7.5mph on the tread

    • 12-minute road mile = 5.0mph on the tread

  • Considerations

    • Climate /Temperature

    • Lack of road conditions

    • Don’t be surprised if you find yourself running a little faster or a little slower

How do I work on improving my pace?

Listening to your body and breathing can help you understand and control your pace. Photo: Matthew Green for RUNGRL

Listening to your body and breathing can help you understand and control your pace. Photo: Matthew Green for RUNGRL

This question is basically, “How do I get faster”. There is no single or easy answer to this question, and the variables involved will vary from individual to individual. However, in general, here are a few things to remember:

  • As I mentioned before, sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. It’s ok to slow down on long runs and, as a matter of fact, you probably should. Longer runs, at conversational pace or a little faster, helps with:

    • Running economy (the ability to transfer and use oxygen)

    • Ability to handle discomfort (mental toughness)

    • Building and maintaining your base pace/starting point

  • Check in regularly with 1-mile time trials.

  • 10 percent rule: Every two-three weeks, add 10 percent to your weekly volume (either speed or distance, not both) then revisit with the aforementioned time trial.

  • Do more than running! Cross training and strength training are important to your running improvements. Don’t forget your core and your glutes!

Should I be listening to music as a new runner?

As with most things in running, it depends. Music is 100 percent a personal decision. I choose to run without music for a handful of reasons:  

  • I noticed music impacted my pace. I was trying to keep up with the BPM on each song and would find myself running way too fast.

  • I wanted to get a better understanding of my form, mechanics and breathing when I'm out on runs. Hard to do that with Lizzo jams blasting (She’s so good!).

  • Safety: It’s important to be aware of your surroundings while running. Music can at times distract from that if you’re not careful. If you do use music, be sure to keep one earbud out to hear better.

  • I use running as a time to reflect and do a lot of thinking. Music doesn’t help with that.

If you’re a beginner and music keeps you motivated through runs, by all means, fire up the most recent RUNGRL playlist and get out there. Just be sure to be mindful of how or if it’s impacting your pace and make the necessary adjustments along the way.

Related Post: Can Women Runners Ever Really Be Safe?

How do you train for race pace if you live in a hilly city?

Unless you’re going to resign yourself to the treadmill or track, unfortunately, there’s no way around the hills. The good news is, those very hills are helping you become a better runner with each climb.

In your training, you should be running at race pace very minimally outside of shorter interval, tempo and speed workouts. You shouldn’t be running at race pace during long runs.

As you go out on your (slower) hilly runs, keep a couple things in mind:

  • Do your best to maintain an even pace up, and down the hill. Undoubtedly, you’ll end up slowing down some on the way up as you fight against gravity, and will have the urge to speed up some on the way down. Both are fine, within reason.

  • Strength train: lunges, squats, deadlifts are exercises you can do to help you get up those hills.

There’s scientific evidence that shows that hilly runs and hilly races will always be slower than those that are flat, but use the hills to your advantage, you’ll be stronger for it.

Got a topic you want to #AshCoachAsh about? Share your questions and suggestions with her directly at Ashlee@rungrl.co. You might see your topic/question on a future episode!

About #AskCoachAsh

There’s always something new to learn about running. Whether you’re a beginner with no idea where to start or an old pro looking to make tweaks and improvements, running is something you can never stop learning about. We know the information out there can be overwhelming, so we’re here to help! We want to make it as digestible and relatable to our experience as Black women, but also true and informational. Join us for these recurring Live chats on our RUNGRL Instagram page.

About Coach Ash

Hi! I’m Ashlee, co-founder and CEO of RUNGRL. I’m an RRCA-Certified Running Coach (I subscribe to the “do as I say, not as I do” method, lol). I started running about 8 or so years ago. Since then, I’ve run a handful of 10Ks and 10-milers, 15 half marathons, and 2 world major marathons. Running and the community it creates is very dear to me, and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to share miles with amazing people.

It’s been an incredible ride so far, and we’re excited to continue to make space for black women’s wellness through running, including new offerings like #AskCoachAsh.