How to Find Your Race Pace

Showing up to the start line of your goal race with the intent to compete from start to finish can be a daunting proposition. Truly racing, as opposed to running to finish, requires not only a different mindset but different preparation. In order to optimize your race-day performance, it’s important to train appropriately and execute effectively. These are two of the biggest factors that increase your likelihood of setting a big PR, getting an age-group award or even finding yourself on the podium.

Most pace charts are going to use algorithms to make reasonable guesses at what your race pace should be for any given distance using a mile time trial. These equations are reasonably reliable and fairly accurate, but they cannot factor in variables like terrain, lack of sleep or inclement weather.

A mile-long time trial and a pace chart will provide you with a good place to start, but let’s talk about how you can use other parameters to maximize your training. A common mistake many runners make is to simply extrapolate their current race pace over all different distances.

In reality, your race pace will vary to a statistically significant degree over races of all different distances.

Another factor to consider is that the measurement of VO2 max is a good indicator of overall fitness, but not an infallible way to predict expected race times.

While they are outliers, some athletes with a relatively low VO2 max perform unexpectedly well while others who might have been the favorites on paper crash and burn on race day.

Your Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and the Talk Test are two real-time variables that can ensure you are training effectively, while taking outside parameters into consideration. While we can talk about goal race pace (GRP) as an expression of miles over minutes to give us a fixed goal to shoot for, knowing what each race distance is supposed to feel like is equally as important.

Here's everything you need to know about finding your race pace.

Two runners run side by side during a race.