Running For Beginners: Setting a Pace

By Jeremy Patton

As a novice runner, you should set an easy pace until you learn how much exertion you can handle. These tips will help you determine an appropriate speed, avoid injury and increase speed as your skills improve.

The author racing on Main Street in London, KY sometime during the late 90s.

The author racing on Main Street in London, KY sometime during the late 90s.

Running is strenuous and should not be attempted without a doctor‘s consent.

For your first few outings, set a modest distance goal such as running a quarter-mile without stopping. The initial distance will depend on your fitness level and other factors. For help on setting and achieving distance goals, check out “Running for Beginners: How Far Should You Run?”

Once the distance is set, determine a starting pace. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to carry on a conversation while running. If you must interrupt your conversation to catch your breath, slow down. Run at a lazy pace, stay relaxed and maintain a consistent stride.

Speed is not important in the beginning, so leave your stop watch at home and resist competing with more experienced runners. Take your time and focus on proper technique. Learn your limits and allow your body to adapt gradually. Pace yourself and you will complete your training sessions without undue strain.

Regular practice builds endurance and stamina that naturally increases speed. Only after your improvement hits a plateau will it be necessary to formulate specific speed workouts. When your running becomes more advanced, using a stop watch might be merited.

So, to determine how fast to run, maintain a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation. Speed will naturally increase as you become more fit, so do not worry about it until you have reached a higher level of conditioning and technique. A conservative approach to speed in the beginning will make running more enjoyable and less painful.

Added 8/4/16 – Updated 5/8/17