Broad Street Run Training: How to Nail Down a (Realistic) Goal Race Pace

Running coach Cory Smith outlines how to narrow in on a realistic goal pace.

Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Odds are, at this point in your Broad Street training you’ve landed upon a finishing time goal. There’s also a good chance your goal has varied based on your daily training. On good days you may think, “I’m feeling so good. I’m going to crush that goal!” While after a rough training run, thoughts of doubt creep into your head.

Deciding on a goal race pace can seem much like an intimidating guessing game where, if you guess wrong, you’re headed towards a world of hurt. While there’s no magic formula to guarantee your goal pace is correct, there are steps you can take to help narrow the number down to a realistic goal.

One way to determine if your goal pace is realistic is to include race-pace workouts in your training. Race-pace workouts are runs where you complete portions at goal race pace. These workouts can be continuous runs at pace or broken periods at race pace with periods of slower pace for recovery.

Including race-pace workouts will not only provide a chance to practice running at your goal pace, but will also give you the mental confidence needed to hit your goal pace come race day. Or if your goal is a bit too lofty, you’ll quickly be able to adjust before setting yourself up for a painful trot through South Philly.

In order to get a good sense of if your pace is feasible, I’d recommend including more than two of these workouts in your training. After each workout, it’s important to reflect on how it went. You’ll want to ask yourself, Could I have held that pace longer? If so, how much longer? You’ll want to be honest with yourself.

The key to any training program is a workout progression. I’d recommend starting off with a race-pace workout that seems doable and adding more volume the next time. The volume will depend on your running experience. For race-pace workouts, it’s better to add volume first before reducing pace.

Since I’d recommend doing multiple race-pace workouts, it’s important to start with a workout you know you can complete. Use that first workout as a guide for the next one to add more time spent at race pace. For example, if you ran 3 miles at race pace and that felt easy, try 4.5 miles next time. The more difficult the workout is, the less volume you’ll want to add.

One great way to practice running goal pace on tired legs is to include goal pace at the end of a long run. Run the first part at your normal-long run pace and then at the end, include goal pace. If you want to make it even more difficult, run the first part over very hilly terrain then come down to flat for the race pace. Other workouts to practice race pace would be your classic repeat intervals (think: mile repeats, ½ mile repeats, etc.).

Below are examples of race-pace workout progressions you can incorporate into your training. As I mentioned before, you’ll want to start with one you feel is attainable and work through the progression or skip if capable. While there is no one single workout to predict your race pace, completing a few of these with some introspection will help give you a sense of whether you’re on the right track or not.

Examples of race-pace workout progression

6 Miles easy w/ 3 miles @ goal pace
5 Miles easy w/ 4 miles @ goal pace
6 Miles easy w/ 4 miles @ goal pace
5 Miles easy w/ 5 miles @ goal pace
6 Miles easy w/ 5 miles @ goal pace

2 Miles easy then alternate between goal pace and moderate for the last 6 miles
2 Miles easy then alternate between goal pace and moderate for the last 8 miles
4 Miles easy then alternate between goal pace and moderate for the last 6 miles
4 Miles easy then alternate between goal pace and moderate for the last 8 miles

4 x 1 mile @ Race Pace w/ 2-minute recovery
5 x 1 mile @ Race Pace w/ 2-minute recovery
6 x 1 mile @ Race Pace w/ 2-minute recovery
3 x 2 mile @ Race Pace w/ 2-minute recovery
2 x 3 mile @ Race Pace w/ 3-minute recovery

……………

Cory Smith, a Philadelphia based running coach, shares his expert advice as an American Cancer Society DetermiNation running coach; founder of Run Your Personal Best, a private running-coaching business; and head cross country coach at Penn State Brandywine. He is a USA Track and Field-certified coach and a 4:03 miler. As a student athlete at Villanova, Cory was an NCAA Division One Regional and National Championship qualifier. Contact Cory at [email protected]. Read all of Cory’s posts for Be Well Philly here.

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how: