Tag Archives: pace

Running in Cold and Icy Weather

What adjustments do you need to make for running when the cold weather appears?


According to a formula worked out by Tom “Tinman” Schwartz, our running paces are not only slowed by heat, but also by cold temperatures as well.  Schwartz found that 53 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for the runners in his study.  The farther the temperature moves away from 53 (hotter or colder), the slower the pace they would achieve with the same effort.

For example, you can expect a time increase of 1.66 percent when the temperature drops to 30 degrees, a 3 percent increase at 20 degrees, a 5.33 percent increase at 10 degrees and an 8.33 percent increase in time when the temperature hits 0 degrees.  The formula may vary slightly for runners of different body types, but the trend will still hold true for all.

My point is that you need to give yourself a break and not expect to run your best pace in freezing temperatures.  Thankfully, however, training through these cold weather months will pay off.  Persevere!


Personally, I am quite comfortable running in 40 degree weather if I have the proper attire.  Below 30 degrees begins to become uncomfortable.  Thankfully, there are ways to get more comfortable in cold weather.  You can adjust to cold weather by adding layers of clothing.  This gives it a big advantage over running in the summer.  After all, there is a limit of how much clothing you can remove to adjust for heat.   :)

For the cold temperatures, dress in light layers.  A huge coat or heavy pants will weigh you down.  Light layers can hold your body heat effectively but have the added advantage that you can take them off if you get a little hot.  Light layers also have the advantage of allowing you to maintain good running form.  Cover your head and neck.  Mittens are often better than gloves, but wear whatever you are comfortable wearing.

Barefoot & minimalist shoes might not be the best choice on the coldest days.  I believe it is possible to get frostbite on your feet even if the rest of you is toasty-warm.

Ice & Snow

Please be careful when it comes to slippery conditions.  One slip is all it takes to injure yourself.  It is better to take an extra rest day than it is to risk your health.  Moreover, that little slip can lead to a much longer rest if you have to wear a cast!  I’m aware that those that live in the north probably see snow and ice is just a way of life, but you at least have to be careful.  Take extra care and slow your pace down in these conditions so you can live to run another day.

“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

Running Naked: The Effects of Watchless Running

A fellow runner posted this question to me:

Hi, P. Mark!!

What has been your experience with watchless running and racing? I race without a watch but I want to start training without a watch, just enjoying runs and doing true fartlek runs, don’t care wearing a watch during intervals, I have been obsesses with splits for so long that I want to try something different, I have tried fartlek runs without a watch in the past and I raced decent and I loved the freedom of it!! Do you think that the training and racing suffers training watchless always ( even for hard workouts)?


Most runners feel naked without a timing device.  That is why I refer to an untimed run as a Naked Run.

It is not the watch or GPS device that we miss.  What we are missing is data, the opportunity to analyze our running and make informed decisions about our progress and the effectiveness of our workouts.

Well, Cesar, I know exactly what you mean.  We get so caught up in the numbers sometimes that is easy to forget some important things.

  • First, in the attempt to focus on our pace and or form, we sometimes forget the simple joy of getting lost in a run. The act of lacing up your shoes and enjoying the freedom that running brings.  There is joy in movement.  There is joy in enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells on the run.
  • Second, we forget to give ourselves a little latitude.  On hot and humid days, we sometimes forget to adjust our goal times and end up frustrated throughout the run.  Cold and rain can throw us off pace as well.  Too  much focus on a regimented training with exact paces can drive you crazy.

Does a GPS device or a watch do this to us?  No, we do it to ourselves.  The watch is just a tool.  It is not the Garmin’s fault.  The Garmin is innocent.

Say it with me: 

“The loss of the simple joy of running and the negative feelings created by a “bad workout” are the fault of no one or no thing except myself.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let us move on to the other extreme.  What would happen if we all started running naked?

The Effects of Naked Running

The truth is that there is not one answer that fits all.  What is true for all runners is that pace is important.

  • Running too fast can lead to injury; a watch can tell you when to slow down.
  • Running too slow can lead to frustration because you are not making progress as fast as you could.

If you have been watching your pace like a hawk for years, you can probably “run by feel.”  Running by feel simply means that you can tell when you are running at or near the most important benchmarks.  If you are that runner, you do not need a watch to know when you are pressing against the limit of your lactate threshold.  You know when your body has switched from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.  For these experienced runners, the danger of never wearing a timing device is gradually losing your sense of pace.  Without timing periodically, you could venture to far away from your goal paces.

For those runners who are less aware of how these things feel, we need to go by pace and/or heart rate.  For our key workouts of the week, we have to wear our watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS devices.  This includes slow runs!

Striking a Balance

I do not believe that any runner should do all of their runs with a watch or GPS device.  I believe that one or two runs a week should be simple, relaxed runs where you can let go of the pressures of the world AND the pressures of training.  Just go out for a run.

I also believe that the experienced runners still needs to wear the devices at least once or twice a week.  It will allow you to document your runs and show your progress.  You will want this data months or years from now.  Wearing the device periodically can also tell you if your “sense of pace” is a little off.  If you are surprised by how fast or slow you are going, it is time to wear the watch more often for a while.

If you find yourself over-focused on pace and unable to enjoy the run, add some Naked Runs to your week.

Here are some related posts about the importance of pace:

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

wise running logo 7_25_12

My Personal Running Progress 2009-2013

This post is not advice.  It is just a personal report of the progress that I have made over the last 4 years.

In the summer of 2009, my life was hitting some speed bumps [understatement].  To deal with the added stress, I hit the road running.  At first I just ran a few miles every two or three days.  I just ran when I felt like it.  I ran down backwoods country roads in the hot summer and it felt good.  I had given up competitive running back in 1985 because of some tendon issues that went unresolved.  Yet, here I was.  I was running… and running felt good.

Barely moving at the end of the Oak Rige Half Marathon, 2009

Barely moving at the end of the Oak Ridge Half Marathon, 2009

By the end of the summer, I decided that I would run a half marathon.  I was enjoying longer and longer runs and it just sounded good.  Besides, in 1984 I ran a half marathon in 1:20:48.  How hard could it be to get it back, right?  WRONG!

I continued to run erratically.  I had no plan.  I just ran what I felt like running.  The Oak Ridge Half Marathon was in November that year.  I had run a lot, or so I thought.  On race day, I felt strong and went out waaaay too fast.  By the half way point, I was quite tired.  Then came the killer hill.  By the time I came down that hill my pride was completely gone.  All I had to do is just survive the next 6 miles.  Survive I did.  Barely.  I had started the day in a sprint and ended barely moving.  Everything hurt.  The world was spinning a little bit.  Man, that was hard!

As tough as it was, I did manage to squeak in just under the two-hour mark.  That performance is roughly the equivalent of running a 26 minute 5K.

But this article is not about how fast I was or am.  It is about my progress and how long it has taken.  Hence that is just the beginning of the story.

Here are my race results

2013 KTC EXPO 10k  – 10K Run TN 5/25/13 1 24 28 6:23 39:43
Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon 2013 TN 4/7/13 3 49 57 6:55 1:30:41
Shamrock Marathon  2013 VA 3/16/13 13 107 121 7:22 3:13:22
Whitestone 30k TN 2/24/13 2 6 7 7:17 2:16:02
Strawberry Plains Half Marathon 2013 TN 2/9/13 5 12 14 6:41 1:27:42
Calhoun’s New Year’s Day 5K 2013 TN 1/1/13 1 19 20 5:58 18:35
Secret City Half Marathon  2012 TN 11/18/12 10 10 10 6:46 1:28:41
7 Bridges Marathon 2012 TN 10/21/12 22 22 22 7:44 3:22:44
THE HAL CANFIELD  5 MILE 2012 – Run-5Mi TN 9/3/12 2 9 12 7:06 35:33
THE HAL CANFIELD MEMORIAL MILE 2012 – Run-1Mi TN 9/3/12 3 23 26 5:43 05:43.00
The Butterfly Fund of East Tennessee 5K TN 8/18/12 2 14 17 6:31 20:14
29th Annual Carter Mill 10k 2012 TN 7/21/12 2 24 30 7:11 44:39
Pilot’s Fireball Classic 5K TN 7/3/12 5 78 89 6:36 20:31
Summer Solstice 8K TN 6/16/12 3 32 38 8:18 41:20
8th Annual Provision Health & Wellness Dogwood Classic 5k 2012 TN 4/28/12 4 24 24 6:10 19:11
Covenant Health Dogwood Mile 2012 TN 4/27/12 1 6 6 5:34 05:34.00
Strawberry Plains Half Marathon 2012 TN 2/11/12 3 20 22 7:01 1:32:01
New Year’s Day 5K 2012 TN 1/1/12 6 39 45 6:23 19:52
Secret City Half Marathon  2011 TN 11/20/11 4 22 26 7:08 1:33:31
Seven Bridges Marathon 2011 TN 10/16/11 5 19 20 7:55 3:27:27
34th Annual KTC EXPO 10K 2011
TN 5/28/11 6 40 45 6:56 43:09
Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon 2011 TN 4/3/11 24 152 187 9:00 3:55:59
Secret City Half Marathon TN 11/21/10 6 47 66 8:18 1:48:53
Tennessee Sports Medicine Expo 5k 2010 TN 5/29/10 5 24 25 7:03 21:55
Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon 2010 TN 3/28/10 62 330 479 12:46 5:34:38
Oak Ridge Half Marathon 2009 TN 11/21/09 7 87 112 9:07 1:59:27

If we just compare the half marathon from 2009 [1:59:27] to my PR in 2012 [1:27:42], then here is the progress:

  • 31 minutes and 45 seconds faster overall for the half marathon distance.
  • 2 minutes and 26 seconds faster pace per mile
  • VDOT score estimates went from 36.5 to 52.5

This 16 VDOT point progress was made in approximately 42 months.  Hence, I advanced about almost 4/10 of a VDOT point per month.  Considering that I was ill for 6 moths last year, that is pretty fast progress!  Under absolutely ideal conditions that none of us have, you could expect to progress at about .8 VDOT points per month.  Moreover, the pace per mile for the half marathon pace changed about 3.5 to 4 seconds per month of diligent labor.

If we only look at 5K races, then I ran a 21:55 in May of 2010 and a PR of 18:35 in January of 2013.  Here is the progress:

  • 3 minutes and 40 seconds faster over the 5K distance
  • 1 minute and 5 seconds faster pace per mile
  • VDOT score estimates of 45 to 54

Since this improvement happened over 32 months, that would be nearly 3/10 of a VDOT point per month average.  Moreover, the pace per mile changed about 2 seconds per month of diligent labor.

To Sum It Up

Over the last few years, my average progress for each month of training has been:

  • about 2 seconds faster pace for a 5K
  • about 3.75 seconds faster pace for a half marathon

“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

Ask P. Mark: The Difference Between a Tempo Run and Intervals

This was the first question posted to me via the Ask P. Mark page.
Please visit that page to post a new question.  Thanks!

Q:  What is the difference between a tempo run and an interval?

A:  The short answer is that in an interval workout, you speed up and slow down several times.  In a tempo run, however, you gradually build up to the target pace and hold it until it is time to slow down for a cooldown.

There are a few people who will do more than one tempo run within a long run.  This is an advanced maneuver that I do not recommend for the average runner.

Here are the definitions for the Tempo and Intervals that I gave on the Getting Faster post:


Intervals are a lot like repeats, but have a different goal in mind.  While repeats are about increasing raw speed, intervals are more about maintaining your new speed over a distance.  Because of this, intervals should be at a little bit longer distance.  Aim for a distance that you could complete in less than 5 minutes.  800 meters (1/2 mile) is a common distance for interval training.

  • Run your intervals at race pace, but no faster.  Remember: Race pace is the pace at which you could run a 5K now, NOT the pace that you hope to achieve later.
  • Instead of being fully rested as you did in repeats, interval training does not allow for full rest.  The time between intervals should be about the same time as you took to run the last interval.  Unlike repeats, you jog during the recovery time between intervals.
  • Since the distances are longer than the distance for repeats, the number of intervals that you complete in one workout should be less.  You can do 3-8 intervals as long as you continue to maintain your relaxed form.

Tempo Runs

If you are racing longer distances, then you will want to practice running faster for even longer periods of time.  This is the goal of a tempo run.

  • Run your tempo miles a little slower than race pace, about 80-90% of the full effort that you would use in a 5k race now.
  • Tempo runs can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on your fitness and goals.
  • You can choose to do one or more tempo runs as part of a longer run or have it as a stand-alone workout.  In either case, make sure that you run a warmup and a cooldown in addition to the tempo miles.
  • To get faster, seek the combination of distance & speed that pushes you consistently near the limit of what you can maintain.  If you can’t maintain relaxed form, you are pushing too fast or too long.


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & ebook

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store




Using VDOT Numbers to Inform Your Running

I recently mentioned VDOT scores to my running friend Cait.  We were discussing her goals for improving her 5K performance.  I know that she can cut several minutes off of her 5K PR by doing the kind of speed work I have been blogging about.  Of course, cutting several minutes will take a couple of years, but through hard work & wise resting she can definitely accomplish this.

But what is a VDOT and why should a runner care?  It is a measurement created by Dr. Jack Daniels to track the progress of the runners that he has coached over the years.  Daniels goes into great details in his book, the Daniels Running Formula. If you want all of the information straight from the source, I recommend buying the book.  If you just want a quick summary, keep reading here.  :)

What is a VDOT?

Without going into the detailed scientific stuff, your VDOT number represented the amount of oxygen you consume during a minute of running.   If you have the money, you can go to a lab and get your VDOT tested exactly.   Thankfully, your VDOT can be estimated fairly accurately by your recent race performances.

How is VDOT useful to the typical runner?

1)  Tracking Progress over Various Distances.   It is a system that allows you to track your overall running performance and progress in getting faster.  It is especially useful for runners that run a variety of distances.

2)  Determining Productive Training Paces.  Over the years, Daniels has perfected a system that determines paces for various types of training runs that are fast enough to make progress but slow enough to be safe.

Personally, I have been using VDOT calculations for a little less than a year.  I have found that the numbers to be right on target.

Below is a brief VDOT chart.  To use it, look up a recent performance.  Let’s say that you have recently run a half marathon in 2:14:03.  Look at the half marathon column and find the time closest to 2:14:03.  The closest number is 2:13:49.  Looking across that row of numbers tells us a few details.  First, a 2:14:03 translates roughly to a VDOT of 32.  On the same row are equivalent performances at 5K, 10K, and marathon distances.  This is a rough estimate of what you may have been able to do on that day if the race was those distances.

Also on the same line are the suggested paces for your training runs.  These paces should be reasonable & achievable for you at this stage.  Even if you can go faster, it may not be a good idea.  This is fast enough to make progress, but slow enough to reduce the chance of injury.






Easy Pace (Per Mile)

Tempo Pace (PM)

Interval Pace (400 M)









































































































































































A couple more tips:

  • There are VDOT calculators available on various web sites with more detailed information.   I always find it best to use more than one to double-check the numbers, but that’s just me.
  • NEVER look up your goal time to estimate training paces.  Only use recent race performances.  Using your goal time can lead to training too fast and being injured!

If you are serious about making progress and setting new PRs, I suggest that you being using VDOT numbers & corresponding paces.  If you do it right, you can make consistent progress!

“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


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