What’s the right pace?

With another few inches of fresh snow on the ground (that has turned mostly to ice on the road) I have had to delay my return to 4:00 AM outside running until at least next week. I was thinking about pace as I started up the treadmill this morning. With my increasing familiarity with the (unmarked) speed control slider on my treadmill I can quickly set whatever pace I wish to run. A check of the Garmin at the end usually confirms that I ran the pace that I expected. It’s not ideal but I don’t mind since I know my new treadmill will soon provide all that information, and more, in real time. Today I settled on a 9:20 pace because it seemed sufficiently challenging. With the warm temperature of the room it was fast enough. I had a good run and felt the workout.

I started thinking more about the metrics of running and how 5 seconds over the course of a 5 mile race can make such a big difference. In the 8K I ran last year I thought I had nailed a sub-9:00 pace but forgot that 8K is actually 4.97 miles so I missed 8:59 by mere seconds. But does that matter? I’d say yes and no. Yes because running in the 8:00’s is usually more desirable than running in the 9:00’s. So for racing, yes, pace can matter. But for everyday running – unless one is specifically aiming to improve speed – I think enjoyment wins out over speed. For recreational running, following the strategy of “gain, but no pain” is probably the best way to choose the right pace. That’s my view these days.

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