Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Though I often say "erase pace"...there are times that training based on pace is necessary/good!
If you are reading this just to find your "easy, marathon, tempo, interval, or repetition" paces, scroll down to the tables. If you want to learn what those terms mean and how to use them for your training, read on!
First off, if you have never read Jack Daniel's Running Formula, I highly recommend it. Jack is the pioneer for many modern coaching philosophies and a really nice guy too!
Choosing intensity for workouts is part art and part science. While much of the time I base training effort levels off of Rate of Perceived Effort (read my blog here), there are times where an athlete needs to prepare for races at certain paces.
Jack Daniels uses race performance as a predictor of fitness levels, as opposed to doing a lab based VO2 max test. There are many factors that contribute to running performance outside of VO2 max, so I feel that VDOT is a good way to predict race performance and prescribe intensities.
While it may be helpful to understand what a race performance of different distances may be based on recent race performances, I find the intensity prescription most helpful for coaches and athletes. I still feel that running based on RPE has more advantages and is an important skill for runners to learn. As an athlete gets closer to competition and when we are looking to develop race-specific speed, prescribing paces can be helpful. For example, a runner who is 8 weeks out from a marathon may do an alternation workout: 5 sets of alternating 1/2 mile at threshold pace and 1/2 mile at marathon pace. This would help to improve anaerobic threshold and speed endurance.
For coaches, there is also the advantage that you can prescribe workouts to athletes based off of pace without needing to specify what that pace is for everyone. If a runner knows their VDOT (based off recent race performance) they will be able to identify their Easy, Marathon, Tempo, Interval, and Repeat paces at a variety of distances. When a coach tells a group of XC runners to do 10x400m at Interval pace, each athlete will be able to know what their time should be based off of VDOT.
"Easy" pace is easy enough that you can hold a conversation and exert relatively low effort. This pace is used for aerobic development. Think Heart Rate Zone 1&2 (59-74% of Heart Rate max)
"Marathon" pace is a moderate pace used for steady runs or longer repeats. You should be able to talk, but may be labored. Think Heart Rate Zone 3 (89% Heart Rate max)
"Threshold" pace is meant to improve muscular endurance and anaerobic threshold. It may be challenging to talk. Think Heart Rate Zone 4 (88-92% Heart Rate max)
"Interval" pace is not all out pace. Intervals are meant to improve VO2 max (or velocity at VO2 max at least) and should be 3-5 min in duration with a set recovery time. Think upper Zone 4 to lower Zone 5 ( 98-100% Heart Rate Max)
"Repetition" pace is designed to help you feel comfortable at faster paces. This will vary based on the distance that you are training for and is therefore not associated with heart rate max often.
So what is your VDOT, and do you train at the proposed intensities for that? Find out below in the tables!
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