• Cory Smith

The Art of Pacing: How to Master It


Nearly every world record from 1500 meters to marathon has been set by running negative splits, which is running the second half of the race faster than the first. Pacing is the single most important skill in running and hands downs absolutely crucial for a successful marathon. It also happens to be one of the more difficult skills to master.

In today’s world of GPS watches, treadmills and music our internal sense of pacing becomes clouded. These external distractions become somewhat of a background noise, affecting our senses and our ability to truly assess our pace.

But here’s the good news, pacing is a skill and with any skill, it can be learned with practice and patience. Here’s how to dial-in your pacing ability.

First, no treadmills and headphones. Then you’ll need a route where you know the mile markers. The Kelly Drive loop is perfect for this because of the markers every ¼ mile. It you’re not able to get to Kelly Drive, that’s fine. Next time you’re on your regular running route pay special attention to you GPS device and where each mile is. What you’ll want to do is take note of landmarks such as rocks, signs, trees of where each mile is. An example would be that tree is mile 1, that street sign is mile 2, that house is mile 3, etc.

Once you have your mile markers memorized you’re ready to begin. Start your run and watch as you normally would however don’t look at it while your running until you hit the 1st mile marker. For those neurotic runners that check their watch every minute, this is easier said then done. One tip I recommend is to change the screen on your watch so you can only see the time, not distance, pace or speed. Or just wear a normal stopwatch with no GPS.

As you’re running pay close attention to how you’re feeling…what is your breathing like? Heavy? Swallow? Is this easy for you? How long do you think you could run at this pace? 7 miles? 10 miles?

Now what you’ll want to do is based on the above data, NOT YOUR WATCH OR GPS, guess what pace you’re running as you approach the mile marker. Then as you pass by the mile marker look at your watch to see what the actual pace was. How off were you? Repeat this guessing game the rest of the run consistently recalibrating based on how you feel.

This repetitive guessing game will eventually help you calibrate your internal sense of pace. Practice makes perfect. This is not a skill you’ll learn overnight or even in a matter of weeks, but something you’ll have to do for months if you truly want to become a master of pacing.


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