Updated: Sep 25, 2020
One of the more common questions I hear from newer runners is, “How fast should I run?” That is a very good question; and the generic answer is, “It depends ….” But, there are some tools available that don’t cost anything but a bit of time that can help find the answer for your particular set of requirements and abilities.
One tool that I have found particularly useful is ‘Jack Daniels’ VDOT Running Calculator’; and you can find it here: https://runsmartproject.com/calculator/
To make the best use of JD’s Running Calculator, you will need to input the time (or pace) and distance of a recent run. The calculations assume a “best effort”; so ideally you would input the results of a recent race for the most accurate results. Once you provide the data, the calculator will use that to make predictions about other distances as well as various paces to be used in training. The race predictions are good if there is not a large difference between the two distances; for example, if you input the results from a recent 5K race, the prediction for a 10K race should be fairly close; but the predictions for the half-marathon and marathon will likely be less accurate. In all cases the predictions assume that you have done the required training to cover the distance.
So, let’s work a simple example to see what sort of information JD’s Running Calculator provides and how we can use it …
First, let’s assume we ran a recent 5K race and finished in 30 minutes (6:00 min/km pace). We open JD’s calc and select 5K from the drop down menu and then enter 00 30 00 in the Time Fields (or 6 00 in the Pace Fields). Make sure we have “km” selected in the distance and pace field (unless you really want it in miles …) and press “Calculate” …
*Note: if you used a fitness band or your phone to track your run, you will likely find that the distance covered does not match the specified distance. You can input the specific distance and time from the device if you like. But, what I find is convenient is to keep the distance to that specified by the race, but enter the avg pace for the run vice the recorded time.
OK. If you followed the example above (5K at 6:00/km), you should see three tabs: Race Paces, Training, and Equivalent. (If you don't, or something seems amiss, click "Reset" and try again.)
Race Paces simply tells you how long it would take to cover specific distances running AT THE SAME PACE as you had entered above for the 5K. No magic here.
Skipping to the third tab “Equivalent”, some magic has occurred; go ahead and open it. What you see is a list of common race distances, followed by target times and paces that were calculated from the data you provided above. Looking at the 5K numbers we see a target time of 30:01 with a pace of 6:00/km; just as we would expect. If we look at the 10K, we see a target time of 1:02:24 with an average pace of 6:14/km. This is probably fairly close to what we could achieve, provided we’ve trained for the longer distance. If we look at a marathon, we see a target time of 4:43:20 with a pace of 6:43/km. Now, if we’ve only run a 5K race, then this target will likely be optimistic and we shouldn’t put a lot of confidence in it … (this is one reason that many runners like to schedule a half-marathon race a month or so ahead of a marathon to give them a good idea of their fitness; therefore their target pace for the marathon should be fairly close to the mark).
Moving back to the second tab, “Training”; this is where I think the real value of the calculator is. On the left you will see a column of five paces: Easy, Marathon, Threshold, Interval, and Repetition. Next to these is a little pop-up box that explains what each of them is. The following columns indicate the amount of time it takes to cover the indicated distance at the specified pace … we are mostly interested in the 1 Km column where we see that an Easy pace is between 7:00-7:41/km; and our Threshold pace is around 6:04/km. Again, please take the time to read the information in the pop-up boxes for each of the paces as there is a lot of good information here (perhaps it will be the topic of a future post ….)
OK. So now as a minimum, we know how to get an idea of what our target should be for any race distance, given we have completed a race at a different distance. We can use this information to help plan our pacing for the upcoming race, with the confidence that it should be close. We also can see the targets for the various training paces that we will likely encounter as we begin to train for specific events. These paces allow us to target the various energy systems of our body to maximize the benefits of our training runs.
I like to update these numbers every month or so. Colombo City Runners holds a monthly 5K Race (generally on the last Sunday of each month) complete with bibs (and now it even includes chip timing). Best part is, it is FREE!!! This is a great opportunity to get a check on your fitness month by month and I highly recommend that you take advantage of it whenever you can.