If you plan on ever competing in a 5k, half-marathon, marathon, triathlon, or even one of those popular obstacle course races, you’ll need to know how to calculate your running pace. Not only will this give you an idea of how fast you’ll be able to complete a race, but can also help you plan your training. Here are some basic instructions on finding your running pace as well as how to use it.
How to Calculate Your Running Pace
Though there are many online calculators you could use, the easiest way to find your running pace is to grab a stopwatch, measure off the distance you want to run, and time yourself running it. Then you can take that time and extrapolate it across various distances that make up how far you ran.
For example, say you ran a 5k in 26 minutes. A 5k is roughly 3.1 miles, so that would figure out to a pace of 8.125 minutes per mile (26 / 3.1). To convert the .125 to seconds, just multiply it by 60, which equals 7.5. This means your running pace per mile would equal 8 minutes, 7.5 seconds. You could further divide that by 2 to get your half-mile pace (roughly 4 minutes, 3.5 seconds), and by 4 to get your quarter-mile pace (roughly 2 minutes, 2 seconds).
How to Use Your Running Pace
Now that you have these numbers figured out, you can start plugging them into your workouts. You’re not just going to go out and run a 5k every single day. Some days you might run a 5k. Other days may be doing intervals. Other days still might be longer distance recovery work. If you want to maintain that 26-minute per 5k pace, you now know how fast and hard you need to push each workout.
If you go out to run a 5k, then you know you need to complete it in 26 minutes. If you’re running 400m (quarter-mile) or 800m (half-mile) repeats, you know you need to complete each interval in 2 minutes, 2 seconds and 4 minutes, 3.5 seconds respectively. Doing this ensures you train your body to maintain that pace at all times.
How to Improve Your Running Performance
If you wanted to lower your race times, you would complete a similar exercise. Start with your baseline time, lower it to whatever your goal time is, then extrapolate the same way from there. This will give you a new running pace to maintain in your workouts.
So let’s say you wanted to lower your 5k time from your current 26 minutes down to 24 minutes. Dividing 24 minutes by 3.1 miles, you now know you need to complete each mile in 7.74 minutes. .74 minutes = 44.4 seconds, which means you need to maintain a pace of 7 minutes, 44.4 seconds per mile. This then calculates out to a pace of 1 minute, 56.1 seconds per quarter-mile and 3 minutes, 52.2 seconds per half-mile.
Pushing yourself so that you can maintain these lower 400m (quarter-mile) and 800m (half-mile) times on your interval workouts will train you to eventually be able to achieve these times repeatedly. On the days you train your 5k, you can then attempt to string these together into one longer run. Then on your recovery days, you can go for a much longer distance at a much slower pace, knowing that you’re still getting work in, but not pushing yourself too hard.
In the end, a stopwatch and a calculator really are all you need to improve your running times. Find your baseline, then outline your running pace from there. Repeat your calculations with your goal times, and you’ll now know how hard to push each type of training every week. A little bit of simple math combined with dedicated progressions will see your pace pushed and running times continually lowered.