Running Faster: Training at the Right Pace

“Training too fast, too soon is the quickest way to failure.”  — Greg McMillan

Once you have set goals for your running, the next decision is how you will get there.  Train too slow and you are in danger of not meeting your goals.  If you train too fast, you are likely to end up injured.

legsThis is the dilemma that I was facing after the Knoxville Marathon.  I knew that I wanted to do some serious speed workouts for the next few months, but I was not sure how to get there.  Everyone sets a goal appropriate for their level.  For me, my next major goal is run a mile in less than 5 minutes.  I know that I can run a 5:20 to 5:30.  I need some speedwork!

Dilemma:  I want to push as hard as I can without getting injured.  Where is the line?

How fast should I run my 200s, 400s, & 800s in my bigtime speed workouts?

Thankfully,  a lot of research has been done in this area.  There are tools on the internet which can guide your decision-making about the pace for your training runs at any distance.  The tool that I use the most is the MacMillan Running Calculator.  [click there to visit the page]

It is relatively easy to use.  Choose a recent running performance: Select the distance and input the time.  It is absolutely critical that you only input something you have done in last few months.  DO NOT enter your goal time.  If you do, it will give you times that are less than ideal and may lead to injury!!!!!

Since I have raced and trained at a lot of different distances over the past few months, I actually examined 5 different performances which gave 5 different sets of training paces.  Since my current goal is for the distance of 1 mile, I put more trust in the numbers generated when I put in shorter performances.  If I were training for a marathon right now, I would go by the numbers generated by inputting my most recent marathon and half marathon performances.

Here are the suggested training paces based on my recent performance of running 400 meters in 59 seconds:

  • 400m  1:11 to 1:14
  • 800m  2:25 to 2:32
  • 1200m  3:48 to 3:58
  • 1600m  5:11 to 5:23

Those are the numbers from the “Speed Workout” section, specifically under the middle distance column.  I am choosing middle distance numbers because I am working on my mile.  If I were training for a 10K or longer, I would be going by the “Long Distance” column.

Double-Checking the Numbers

I wasn’t 100% confident in these numbers.  When I ran that 400m in 59 seconds, it was on the dangerous side.  It took me a few days to fully recover.  To make sure that these numbers weren’t too fast for my training, I headed out to the track today to test myself a little.

After warming up, I ran the first 400m at 1:18…a lot slower than the suggested pace which assumes that you can run as many as 8 to 10 repeats.  I rested up and found my legs with a 1:08 on the second 400m, a little faster than the suggested time.  On the next two 400m repeats, I ran a 1:08 and then a 1:10.  Since this was just a test, I had no intention of doing a full workout today.  For me, this little test confirmed that I can probably handle running eight to ten 400 meter repeats in the suggested zone without risking injury.

Not Just for Short Distances

The calculator also gives suggested times for the other kinds of workouts that runners commonly do:  recovery runs, long runs, easy runs, tempo runs, cruise intervals and more.

No matter what you are training for, you can use this calculator or others on the web to inform your choices of how fast to run.


“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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  1. I’m getting ready to train for another half and I’ll be using the McMillan calculator thus time around! :)

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