How do you know which pace to run?

This is an excerpt from the free eBook I will be releasing June 1st. If you would like to be a part of the launch team, or are interested in knowing what exactly that would entail, shoot me an email or comment below:


There is a mentality that in order to really get better, improve and getter bigger, faster and stronger you have to kill yourself and work as hard as you possibly can.  This is the philosophy of some men mingled with truth.  Listen closely because I will teach you a timeless principle that will save you tears, pain, money, energy and transform you into anything you want to be. Most of you won’t be able to do it because it requires patience, which is a human beings worst enemy in our day and age. Nevertheless, I will tell you because it has the potential to change your life and take you to another level:

You actually DON’T have to kill yourself every day to get better and reach your potential. More importantly than going hard is being consistent, doing it every day, starting out small and gradually increasing as you become better, faster and stronger. This goes for paces/pacing and mileage…and A LOT of other things in life. The “no pain, no gain” philosophy is crap. That’s all I have to say. Yes, some pain is necessary, but it should only happen once in awhile, and more often when you get into racing season and close to your peak performances, but even then it is manageable/doable pain and soreness.

The majority of your runs should be done at an easy, easy, EASY pace ESPECIALLY when starting out–that can mean starting out running for the first time, or starting a training plan. Some literature out there suggests that runners be able to carry on a conversation on easy days/runs. I agree with that. I also want to add that runners should be able to carry on a conversation WITH EASE on easy days. I also don’t care if you have asthma, okay, I do care and I’m sorry, but what I don’t care about is letting you run faster because you have asthma, meaning that I’ve had athletes say to me that they’re breathing hard because they have asthma so the pace isn’t actually too fast–No, your body is telling you to slow down for a reason. Listen to it, slow down, and build up to a faster pace. YOU SHOULD NOT BE BREATHING HARD and YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WITH EASE!!!

Now, how fast should this be.  This is a controversial subject, but let me start by saying this: I don’t think anyone should ever get injured. Injuries, in my opinion, come because a runner is doing something wrong. Except in the case that someone hunts you down, or is negligent on the road etc. If you twist your ankle, or slip on ice or a trail, or get hit by a car, then OBVIOUSLY that’s not something you can necessarily prevent, but chances are if you’re running “faster than you have strength” then you will either get burned out or hurt. SOOOO, if you’re building mileage healthily and getting hurt or feeling tired all the time or having trouble racing fast (which is relative), chances are your pace is too fast.

My recommendation is to run 2.5-3 minutes slower than your current best to goal race pace, e.g. if you have recently raced a 5K in 21:00, then your pace is 6:45 per mile, so your easy pace should be 9:15-9:45 per mile. Now some of you may be saying, and I know for a FACT that you’re saying this, “THAT IS SLOW! I can’t run that slow.” Well, this is what I have to say to you: If you want to reach your potential and make running sustainable, you MUST run that slow, and some people need to learn how to run fast and push their bodies, BUT MOST PEOPLE do not know how to run slow, and that’s what they need to learn. Most people when they start running this slow, it feels weird, it doesn’t feel natural–it’s kind of like smoking, and then trying to quit. You know that it’s not healthy to smoke, you’re totally addicted, then you try to change and it’s hard, it doesn’t feel good, but then you do it for an extended period of time, finally quit and you feel AWESOME! (That’s how I am with sugar, specifically of the white-refined variety:) Again, you don’t have to try this, BUT I GUARANTEE THAT IT WORKS.

I did a 10K race in March 2013 and I did it in 33:25 which is 5:23 per mile pace. Guess what my easy pace is? 8:00-9:00 pace depending on the day, whether I’m starting out or in a nice groove, and to be completely honest sometimes I feel so good that I speed it up and go faster like 7:00-7:30/mile, but I’m good about getting it under control and slowing it back down. Then when I start  breathing hard I know I need to slow down.


Summary and Takeaway

1. Slow down. Run 2:30-3:00 minutes slower than your current race pace and/or goal pace–but probably your current ACTUAL race pace because it’s the slower of the paces.

2. Pick a mileage you feel comfortable doing every single day for a long time (e.g. I could do 3 miles a day for the rest of my life) and err on the side of too little rather than too much. Trust me, it’s not worth it too get overzealous and say 5 miles a day when you should really be doing 4 or less. Then do that consistently, form a healthy running habit, then after 3 weeks up it 1 mile per workout for the week and maintain THAT for 3 more weeks.

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8 Comments on “How do you know which pace to run?

  1. That’s great advice. I appreciate it, especially the specifics about how much slower the easy days should be. Now, how many easy days should I have each week?

    • Thanks so much Neff. Also a great question. I have found the answer to a lot of life’s questions is “It depends.” I don’t say that facetiously, although I apologize if it came across that way, but it really does depend on several factors: What point of your training are you? What are you training for and how long until that event? At the beginning/base-building phase of the training you’ll have a lot of easy days; phase 2 of a program will incorporate harder workouts like 3 quality/speed workouts per week, but not killer workouts; phase 3 will have 2 HARD workouts; and then phase 4 will be peaking/fine-tuning. It definitely depends on several factors. I’m glad you asked this because it validates my plan to release a second eBook on training plans and principles. Another example is someone training for the 5K will have different workouts than someone training for the marathon–that may be obvious, but if you’re doing 2 true SPEED sessions, you may not need to do a tempo or threshold session. Does that make sense? I think a general rule of thumb is no more than 3 hard workouts per week, and also IN GENERAL every hard/challenging/quality workout should be followed by an Easy run day.

  2. Caleb, I just did a lactate threshold test on the treadmill. According to the test my regular pace is not too far from my race pace. It’s only about a minute slower than race pace. What are your thoughts on using this information to find my easy pace?

    • First thought: Curt Eppley is a man cut from a different cloth than the rest. Second thought: I am not worthy to have Curt Eppley comment on my blog!!! jk. That’s a really good point, and honestly I don’t know as much about lactate threshold tests as I would like to. Now, my real thoughts are questions for you and they are as follows: Does your “regular pace” feel sustainable? Does it feel good? Do you feel like you are able to recover properly after a recovery day at your “regular pace”? After a run at your “regular pace” do you feel good, energized and healthy? or do you feel tired, fatigued and ready for a nap? If you’re feeling good, and if you feel like it’s sustainable, I say go for it. There’s so much I don’t know that I’m DYING to learn. Would you like to do a guest blog post on your lactate threshold test and explain why you did it, what it proves, the purpose etc.? I for one would EAT.IT.UP!!! Please say yes.

        • When is the earliest you could have a post like that ready?

          • Maybe a day or 2. We should sit down and talk also.

          • Perfect. Do you want to talk before or after the guest post?

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