Of the many variables that come with choosing the right training—how often to run, how long, how far—knowing how fast to run is one of the hardest to make.
While a majority of all running should be done at a mostly easy, relaxed and conversational pace, the need to run at a variety of faster paces, usually goal race paces, is also essential for success.
The big mistake most new runners make
Knowing how to choose the right training pace is not always an easy task but it is an important one. Most runners incorrectly train by running at the pace they hope to run in an upcoming race but do so without having the fitness and ability to back it up. They often fall short of their race day goals as well as risk injury, over-training and burnout.
Runners should aim to train according to their current fitness and ability. Calculating this is a relatively simple task. To do so, use a recent race result and plug it into one of many online training calculators such as McMillan Running or Daniels VDOT. These will give you a very good idea as to what your (easy, marathon, interval, etc.) training paces should be as well as what you can reasonably expect to achieve at a variety of race distances.
What if you’ve never raced before?
If you don’t have a recent race in which to predict your fitness, you could either run one (a local 5 or 10K would work well) or else complete a simple time trial, giving a hard and honest effort over a set distance (5K works well).
Ultimately, it’s important that you run and train at a level that reflects your current fitness. Over time and if done right, you will adapt to the training and the paces will seem easier. Later, when your race times improve, so too will your training paces.