When moving up to longer races, dialling back your runs will be important.
Amy asks: I have been running consistently for about a year now. I have run two 5Ks and am now thinking about training for a half-marathon and maybe even a full marathon, but I am intimidated by the longer runs. I know I cannot maintain the same training pace I use on shorter runs. How do I know what run pace I should be doing when I’ve never run a half or full before?
Good job challenging yourself with something different. Mixing things up is a good way to boost fitness and stay engaged with your training.
One way for runners to estimate what their time for a longer distance race might be is to use a Training Pace Calculator. Plug in a recent race time and distance and you’ll get a feel for what’s possible for your current level of fitness. (Remember, this is simply a prediction. It is not an exact science.)
The calculator uses a formula that accounts for the general slowing down on longer distances because the body cannot sustain the same level of effort on a long run that it can on a short run. There are other factors that affect performance and race time, like the weather, course difficulty, and training, but this prediction time can give you a rough idea of what to expect and a starting point for some training paces for your runs.
All races, from the 5K to the marathon, are a blend of speed, strength, and endurance. However, the longer the race, more of an emphasis is placed on endurance. Training paces are very different for these longer races as opposed to the 5K distance.
As a newer runner, and also a first time long-distance runner, the bulk of your training should focus on lengthening your long runs to expand your endurance base. Therefore, the pace for most of your training should feel relatively comfortable, at more of a conversational pace than speed oriented. Keep the focus on going the distance rather than hitting a fast pace.
Typically, runners add 20 seconds per kilometre to their goal race pace to as much as 1:15 minutes per kilometre. How much you choose to slow down is up to you, but remember that the longer the run, the slower the pace should be.
This approach helps take the fear out of tackling longer mileage trains your body to burn fat as fuel, minimises the risk of injury, and expands your aerobic endurance base. Then, the next time your training plan calls for that distance again, you have the confidence of knowing you have run that distance before and have the option to pick up the pace and see how you fare going slightly faster. Keep in mind that your training paces will also vary based on the weather conditions and terrain. If it’s hot and humid, or the course is hilly, expect to slow down even more.
Here are some training tips for moving up to longer distances:
- One run a week can be speed oriented, more like 5K training. This is your “speed day” and your shortest run of the week.
- Distance: 8K or less
- Pace: 5K or 10K race pace
- How does it feel? Hard
- One run a week can be a strength day. Run hills, bridges, or tackle a trail for something different after doing some warm-up KMs and adding a cool down.
- Distance: 13K or less
- Pace: 10K to half-marathon race pace
- How does it feel? Moderate
- One run a week is your “long” run day. While the actual distance will vary over the course of training, this day is your longest run of the week. (Find out more in How Slow Should My Long Runs Be? )
- Distance: More than 13 K
- Pace: Slower than half or full marathon race pace
- How does it feel? Comfortable
For any additional runs you may do during the week, keep the pace at a comfortable, conversational level. And always, take at least one day off a week for recovery. (Here’s even more on how you can understand the importance of easy-day pace.) As you move up to higher mileage, you want to include additional recovery days.