-- Marathon Running Information, Coaching and Advice from Coach Joe English

Running Terminology Series — Paces and Workout Intensities

running-advice-bugAs we continue our series on the various types of running workouts, we’ll now explore the intensity or pace of each of the various types of runs. To start at the beginning of the series with Part I, click here.

Long-distance Running Terminology Part II — Paces and Intensity of Running Workouts

By Coach Joe English
with Coach Dean Hebert
(C) 2010 Running Advice and News

In the previous section of this series, we looked at eight major types of running workouts. Each of the workouts that fall in what we would call the “quality” or “goal pace” categories has a specific intensity range attached to it. In other words, each of these types of workouts comes with a pace target attached to it. If the workout is done too fast, the runner will not be able to maintain the pace through the entire distance of the workout. If the pace is too slow, then the runner doesn’t reap the full benefit from the workout.

Intensities and Types of Long Distance Workouts

Gauging pace may seem like a difficult exercise, but through practice everyone can learn the “feeling” of these paces. The key here is “practice”. Runners need to spend time running at each of these paces to learn the feel of the pace. Over time they will become more confident and be able to replicate the target pace for a particular workout on their on volition.

Note that the paces below are all expressed as a percentage of the runner’s vVO2 Max (velocity at VO2 Max), which is a measure of the runner’s intensity at various paces. The pace per mile changes over time as the runner becomes more (or less) fit. The best way to establish the runner’s maximum speed is to perform a time trial of 1,500-2,000M to determine maximum speed over distance.

Paces and Intensity of Long-distance Running Workouts and Races
Mile Pace – The fastest paced track workouts for most distance runners are usually referred to as “mile pace” or the pace that a runner could withstand only for one mile. Mile pace is not a sprint, but is a very hard pace. Most speed workouts will be done at slower paces than this. (98% of maximum pace)

5K Pace – Workouts that are aiming at building speed typically use the designator “5K pace” to describe their pacing. 5K pace is the pace that a runner could hold for about 3 miles. This is a fast pace, but it is not a sprint and is slower than mile pace. Workouts done at 5K pace are often intervals much shorter than 10K pace in the range of 400-1,600 meters. (95% of maximum pace)

10K Pace – Workouts aiming to build speed over longer distances will often use 10K pace, which is a bit slower than 5K pace. The intervals used in 10K paced workouts will often be 800 meters or longer on the track and could be up to 5,000 meters (5K) (90% of maximum pace)

Tempo Pace – Tempo pace is a comfortably hard pace that is sustained for about 20 minutes at a time. The pace is slightly slower than 10K pace and should be about 16-20 seconds per mile slower than 5K pace. (88-90% of maximum pace)

Half-marathon Pace – More advanced runners will notice that they will develop an ability to distinguish between the pace that they could sustain for a marathon (26.2 miles) and what they could sustain for half that distance. Half-marathon pace is usually about 16-20 seconds per mile faster than a runner’s marathon pace. (86% of maximum pace)

Marathon Pace – This is the pace that a runner could sustain for an entire marathon without slowing down. Developing a keen understanding of this pace is important to marathon runners. Running too fast in the early miles leads runners to slow down or “hit the wall” late in a marathon. (84% of maximum pace)

In the last section of this article, we’ll look at some common terms used when talking about running workouts done on the track.

To continue to the section 3, click here.

Coach Dean Hebert collaborated on this article as a technical advisor.

Coach Joe English, Portland, Oregon USA
Running Advice and News


2 responses so far, want to say something?

  1. 1. Running Terminology Series — Types of Long Distance Workouts | Running Advice and News February 17th, 2010 at 12:50 am

    […] To continue to the section 2, click here. […]

  2. 2. Training — How slow should the pace of long-slow runs be? « Running Advice and News May 19th, 2010 at 12:29 am

    […] Let’s just do a quick refresh on why we want to slow these runs down. We’re working out runs in tandem across a two-week cycle with one week being a shorter goal-paced run and then the other week being a longer slower run. When you put these together you get two benefits: 1) a recovery time of two weeks between goal-paced efforts and 2) the extended duration of the long-slow runs that produces more “time on feet”. If you want to read more about training intensities, see our series on training intensities. […]

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