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Training at “Race Pace”

by My Finish Line


The Principle

One of the most prevalent phrases used in the context of training for events these days is that of “event demands” or “game demands.” Instead of simply training to get fitter, and applying this increased fitness in a race/event in the expectation of translating to better performances, the analysis of a performance and regressing this to training has become hot topic.

And about time.

A concept that I struggled to make sense of for years (and I am looking at you, swimmers and track athletes!) was this of starting each pre-season completing high distances in training and then as the season or competition approached getting slowly quicker and sharper. The end result was complete non-exposure to the types of speeds and intensities required to get quicker or better. This to me was akin to a formula one driver practicing in a Ford Ka for seven months before finally deciding to change to the racecar only when competition came nearer.

The Message

So whether you are a 400m runner looking to dip below 50seconds or a 10km runner looking to dip below 40min; if you never expose yourself to the kind of speed that you will need to run for 50sec (or 40min) for a fraction of that time, how on earth will you sustain it for that entire period of the race to achieve your goal.

Let me stop you mid thought and answer that: You. Won’t.

You don’t train submaximally for a long period and then on raceday assume that some superpower will arrive from absolutely nowhere that allows you to perform at a level that you haven’t exposed yourself to prior in training. You need to train at race pace – or, and take a deep breath and big gulp of air as you read this, above race pace.

So what does that mean? Well let’s take the 10km at 40min goal as a target. To achieve this significant milestone the pace required is to stay below 6min 26 second miles for just over 6 miles. Who is going to be unable to do this for 6 miles? I’ll tell you who. Those that cannot run a 6min 26sec mile in the first place.

How Do I Apply It?

Taking this scenario to its logical conclusion, there are obvious principles that need to be adhered to:

1. You need to be conditioned enough to train at this intensity. i.e. you do need to get the long slow miles in.

2. You need to be able to run for 10km (the actual event demands). Don’t scoff at this – the events demands are the same whether you are looking to run it in a super fast time or wearing a dinosaur suit.

3. Being able to run a mile time trial in around six minutes (no mean feat) is a probable requirement in order to sustain 6:26 pace six times over with no rest.

4. Incorporating that pace (6:26) into your interval work is a very good guide. (i.e. attempt to run 5 x 1miles at 6:26 pace with 2/3 min rest in between as a form of speed endurance).

5. Run sustained efforts as a part of your training (i.e. how far can you run in 20minutes; or for how long can you sustain a 6min10sec mile pace for)

Using these ‘race-pace’ principles can greatly enhance the chances of you achieving your goals.