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Key to Success ::
Goal Pace Running
When you are seriously working towards a key race,
you are using a focused running program. You do your
long runs, easy runs, tempo runs and intervals.
Great! But something is missing in this picture:
Goal Pace Running!
In this section I'll talk about:
Why goal pace sessions are important.
Which goal pace sessions to do for different
Why You Need to Run at Goal Speed
race is exciting.
I always get nervous in the last half an hour before
Does not matter what race I am running.
I need to run to the bathroom and feel uneasy about
Have I trained enough?
Suddenly I feel a little pain in my left knee or my
right achilles. I stretch a bit more. Do a few
strides. Run to the bathroom again.
After the race has started this uneasy feeling is
gone almost immediately. I then focus on my speed. I
know exactly how fast to go.
Why? Because I incorporated goal speed runs
in my running schedule, of course! I know exactly
how fast to go.
About Positive, Negative and Even Splits
As you may already know, it pays off to run even splits
or even slightly
negative splits for longer distances.
Even splits means that you run at a steady speed per
mile throughout the race.
Negative splits means that you start off a bit
slower and speed up as the race progresses.
You know those runners as well, who start off too fast
and burn out well before the finish line?
What, you are one of them?
Don't worry. Me too. Occassionally.
They are doing positive splits.
Positive splits will hardly ever get you to your
fastest time possible. In a marathon it is usually
argued that every minute you run too fast in the
first half, you'll lose five minutes in the second
For shorter distances, the effect is less of course,
but still tangible.
Goal pace runs in your training will help. You'll
make sure that you are able to run even splits
during the race.
So you know how fast to go and don't burn out early.
Or that you realize afterwards that you should have
pushed it a bit more.
Other Reason for Goal Pace Sessions - Test
There is another incredibly good reason for goal
pace sessions. Uncertain about whether you'll be
able to hold your speed until the end? Then you can
test yourself during training.
Suppose you want to do a 10K in 40 minutes. If you
have severe troubles when performing a 5K in 20
minutes in your training, then you have got to
A race usually brings out a little extra in you. But
when you can't run half the distance in goal pace
your goal is probably a bit too ambitious.
So the second reason for goal speed running is to
find out whether you are ready for your goal race
Goal Pace Sessions for Different Distances
I'll give you a few different ideas for goal pace
We'll cover a few different distances.
I have seen runners for whom these workouts are
And I have seen runners for whom they haven't.
You need to find out for yourself what works and
Generally you can break these goal pace running
training routines up into different groups :
Time Trial or Test Race
One prolonged effort
Easy, then goal pace
The first two are for the shorter distances; the
last two for the longer distances
Before you continue: do you have a clear goal in
mind for your next race? If not, consider using the
following pages to work things out:
5K Goal Pace Running
Ten 500-metre repeats
For me, this one is a powerful indicator. But, as I
said before, you have got to find out for yourself
if this works for you.
Run 500 metre-repeats at goal speed. Walk for 45
seconds in between. Repeat ten times. You can run
all repeats at goal pace? Then you are probably
ready for your 5K!
Five 1k Repeats
Same idea as before: do five 1k-repeats with a
short break in between (e.g. 45 sec - 1 min). Able
to do it?
Then your 5k goal is definitely plausible!
5K Time Trial or Test Race
The 5K is a short enough distance to run the
complete distance in training at goal pace.
Just do a 5K as fast as you can in training.
See if you reach your goal or get close to it.
This type of training, a time trial, is
You don't have others around you to help you keep
And it's easy to give in to the tiredness without
the stimulation of a real race.
That's why you might be better off putting test
races in your running schedule.
If you are in the middle of a tough training program
your legs will be
day. You will most probably not be able to
maintain your goal pace the whole race.
But just go out at your goal pace and see how long
you can maintain it. No worries if you crash and
burn. This is your test race!
If you already feel like you can't go anymore after
1 mile, then you are a long way from your goal. But
if it happens in the last half mile before the
finish, then there is a good chance that with a bit
more quality training, a good taper and fresh legs
you'll be able to finish your key-5K at the desired
10K Goal Pace Running
This is a toughie, especially in loaded training
weeks. But when you can do this one, you are close
to being able to run your 10K in your desired time.
So do three 3K-repeats with a 1.5 minute jog in
between. After this training, put in a few easy
Also, please do not leave your goal speed sessions
to the last week before your goal race. Try to
to do them two or three times in the four to six weeks leading up
to a key race to get a feel for the pace.
10K Time Trial or Test Race
As with a 5K time trial, it might be easier for you
to schedule in test races. See what works best for
you. A time trial is a bit more convenient to find
time for. You can do it any time, any day. But it is
a hell of a lot tougher to keep your pace when there
is nobody around you.
Half Marathon Goal Pace Running
Time to introduce some of my own lingo. This one I
call the Double-Six.
First run six miles at an easy pace.
Then run six miles at goal speed.
Why do six easy miles first?
Well, you see, the trick is that when you
start doing your goal pace miles you are already
If you can maintain the pace for mile 7-12 with
already tired legs, then you can feel pretty
confident about making it to your goal.
One prolonged effort
Run nine miles at your half marathon race pace. Nine
miles is a little less than 70 % of half marathon
race distance (=13.1 miles / 21.1 K).
Able to run 70 % of race distance at goal speed?
Then, with your extra "race day powers", you
should have a good chance of being able to run the
full race at goal pace.
Marathon Goal Pace Running
The longer your race gets, the more important it is
that you go out at race pace. Not faster.
It is often said, that for every minute you gain
in the first miles of the marathon, you lose five
minutes in the last miles.
Knowing what you can and cannot do is of utmost
importance when running the marathon. For the
marathon, as with the half marathon, we have two
types of goal pace sessions at our disposal :
Easy, then goal pace
For a long time runners have believed that slow long
running is the key for a good marathon. Of course,
you need to do your amount of slow long runs.
But next time you
are planning a few 20-milers in your running
schedule, make half of them finish at marathon
So start off slow, but for the last five to eight
miles pick up the pace.
As with the half marathon workout, key is that you
run goal pace miles when your legs are already
One prolonged effort
More and more elite-runners are running their long
runs of 20 and 20+ miles at marathon pace. These
sessions are extremely taxing and do not belong in
the regular running program of us, mortals.
But we can learn from the elites and at least try to
do some longer runs at marathon pace when preparing
for a marathon. Build
up these long runs to about 15-16 miles in length.
They'll give you a good training at maintaining your
pace for a long, long time.
And it is generally believed, that if you are able
to run 16 miles at goal pace, you'll be able to run
your marathon at goal pace.
Goal pace running is an important part of your
running program. Yes, you focus pretty much all your
training on the traditional running training; your
long runs, easy runs, tempo runs, and intervals.
But you will want to put at least four to six
workouts in your running schedule which are focused
on running at goal pace.
After all, running at goal pace is a very good
way to make sure that you find your right pace
when race day comes and that you'll be able to
hold on that pace for the whole race!
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