Running 101: How to Calculate and Use Your Pace

May 18, 2013 | Kelly Tweeddale

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Pace is as essential to a runner's performance as fuel, hydration and running mechanics. If you're transitioning from recreational to performance runner, pace is the first element you should address in your training regimen.

Think of pace not only as a strategy for setting a benchmark, but as an essential part of your training program for reaching your personal best. You have to know where you are before you can map where you're going. (Discover the four elements of a 5K training plan)

What Is Pace?

Pace is nothing more than a measurement of how long it takes you to cover a defined distance. Think of it as the inverse of the speedometer in your car. Instead of measuring how many miles per hour you're moving, pace is expressed in minutes per mile.

There are countless gadgets and watches on the market that measure pace through GPS tracking and shoe sensor technology. But there are times when devices fail, GPS signals are interrupted, or you simply forget your timing gear at home.

Fear not, because calculating pace is something runners have been doing for many years, way before the era of technology.

Calculate Pace

To calculate pace, all you need are basic math skills and two key pieces of information:

  • How long it took you (timed in minutes)
  • How far you ran (measured in miles)

Once you have those two data points, the formula is simple.

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Total Running Minutes / Total Miles Run = Pace

An example: Training for your first 5K, you run 3.1 miles in 28 minutes and 32 seconds. First, convert 32 seconds into a fraction of a mile (32 divided by 60 = .53 minutes). Added to 28 minutes = 28.53 minutes.

28.53 minutes / 3.1 miles = 9.20 minutes per mile

Most training regimens convert the decimal equivalent for pace back into seconds (because every second counts when striving for a personal best). To do that, simply multiply .20 minutes per mile X 60 (.20 x 60 = 12 seconds).

Pace = 9:12 per mile or, using the standard abbreviation, you ran at an average pace of 9'12."

Now that you can calculate your pace, start keeping a log of your training runs and races. Keep track of what shoes you wore, whether the terrain was hilly or flat, and whether you were running a training route or a race. Before you know it, you will begin to see a pattern emerge, making it easier to set reachable personal goals and effectively track your progress.

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