How to set a realistic race pace goal for running

I'm guessing you're here with me right now because you just ran a race and you went way too hard too early, or you got a race coming up and you really want to avoid it. So, I'm Jesse Funk and on today's episode of Runner's High, I'm going to give you a few tips on how to set a realistic race pace goal.
How to set a realistic race pace goal for running

I'm guessing you're here with me right now because you just ran a race and you went way too hard too early, or you got a race coming up and you really want to avoid it. So, I'm Jesse Funk and on today's episode of Runner's High, I'm going to give you a few tips on how to set a realistic race pace goal.

There are a lot of things that go into determining a realistic race pace goal. And experience over time will give you a more intuitive sense of what it means to set a very honest race goal. And that means an honest, very, very brutally honest look at your current fitness level. Not where you want to be, but where you actually are right now. Now, even if you don't have that experience, that's okay. That's why I'm here. I'm gonna give you a few tips that should help you to get on the right path to set a realistic race pace goal regardless of your race distance.

One of the biggest things you have to consider is what phase of training are you in right now. And that's what I'm talking about taking a very honest look about what kind of fitness you're currently in. If you don't know about the phases of training, per usual hit that subscribe button in the bottom right-hand corner, stay with me. At the end of this video, I will link to my short series explaining what the different phases of training actually are.

So, moving on from there, the very easiest way to figure out what a realistic race-based goal for you is to use the Jack Daniels’ Table. I've talked about this table in other videos because it is an invaluable tool. Jack Daniels who is a famous running coach, if you don't know compile this data from various runners and various levels to give us a guide of basically what should be VO2 Max versus what those equivalent race paces are and training paces.

Down in the description below, I will give you a link to a page where Jack Daniels shares those tables. So, you don't necessarily have to buy his book. But it's always nice when you're using somebody's stuff to buy the book, I often talk about the Triathletes Training Bible there behind me. And it's always nice if you actually purchase a copy of the book when you're using it.

But in any case, Jack Daniels shares his tables, so we can use them for free. I'll have a description-- the link down in the description below. So, the key here is basically look at what you've been doing lately, and then find the corresponding values on the table. So, if you're in the base phase, and you're only doing long run training, what is your per mile pace, you know, whatever that is. If it's nine-minute pace, find that on the table and then go to the corresponding race values and say, okay, I'm running a 10K. So, what is the 10K time that should be equivalent to a training pace of nine-minute miles?

Now, here is the big caveat with this. If you were just in the base phase and you're just doing long miles, that race pace will most likely be much too fast for you at this point in time. That's really more of an ideal goal and the table is supposed to work kind of in the opposite order, you run a race, and then it gives you the training values. You can use it in the other direction but that's where I said, you have to have a very honest look with yourself about where you are in your phase of training and your corresponding fitness to that race pace.

The best way to really dial in an accurate race pace is to go off what you've actually been doing in training lately. And this is assuming you're past the base phase, you're doing some kind of speed work. Even if you aren't doing high, you know, high tempo very, very fast stuff. you need to be doing something to get a baseline for where you're going. I really love 1,000-meter repeats if we're talking about 5K or 10K speed because 1,000 is long enough, you can't cheat like 400, you can't cheat on that speed. You really have to start coast into 5K mode when you're doing thousand, so I love them as a benchmark for your 5K speed.

Now, we take our time from our 1,000s, say I'm running a four-minute, 1,000 meter. Now, there's five 1,000 meters in a 5K. So, we multiply four times five, we get 20 minutes. 20 minutes would be your absolute maximum for a 5K, if that's what you've been doing on 1,000 meter repeats. Now obviously, you have to make adjustments depending on what your interval is, what you've been running and those kind of things as well as the amount of time between your intervals. If you're doing 1,000 meter repeat and you're taking one to one rest, which would mean four minutes of running, four minutes of rest, 20 minutes is going to be much too fast for you.

This is kind of an advice if you're doing four minutes at 5K type effort. And that's again based on your heart rate. Talked about that in another video as well. As always, subscribe, there's plenty of videos on the channel. But if you're doing that in an honest 5K effort, and you're taking very short rest, 60 to 90 seconds, up to two minutes if you're jogging, then that's going to be a pretty good indicator. Now, if you're early on in the season, or you could only complete five of them at that pace before you drop off, then you're probably gonna want to add 10 to 20% of time on top of that 20 minutes to set a realistic pace.

And when we're talking about pacing, my suggestion always is to say, okay, ideally say your 5K is a 20 minute pace. Figure that out, how does that you know, come out to your minute mile. Now tack on time for that first mile. If say 30 seconds extra for that first mile, first mile pace. If you are really going too slow in that first mile, you will have plenty of time to drop that in the last mile and get your average out. But if that is a more accurate speed for you, you will not have gone out too fast.

There's nothing wrong with going out a little too slow, then going out a little too fast, because your muscles need time to warm up. Anyway, even after you've done a warm-up, most likely, you're going to need more time. So, when you set that really honest, almost conservative pace, you give yourself a better chance to achieve the goal you set yourself out to do.

You can apply this same kind of methodology to 10Ks, half marathons, marathons, whatever race you want to apply it to. Keep in mind, you do have to adjust that base interval. So, I like thousands when I'm talking about 5Ks and sometimes 10Ks, but thousands may not be the right measure if you're trying to think about half marathon pace for one kind of workout directly to a race pace.

Maybe for a half marathon, you're doing two to three-mile repeats at race pace, at your intended race pace, and you can compare them. Keep in mind, you need to be doing a workout roughly of similar equivalent distance to the race to get an idea if you're going to use that methodology.

But as I mentioned in the beginning of the video, that Jack Daniels’ Table is really just the neatest and easiest way to pick a kind of race pays out, almost out of the blue and say this is a realistic pace, given a little bit of extra time to be conservative, and then you should be pretty well spot on. After you run your race, go back to the table, adjust your training values and kind of go on from there. So, let me know how accurate is that Jack Daniels’ Table for you? Leave me a comment below and let me know. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.

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