running training plan

Training paces explained

It is well-researched and documented that running training should be carried out at various speeds or paces to be most effective. Aside from our beginner plans, all our training plans will include some type of mixed pace training. Your training paces will be specific to you and your running ability and will change as you become a faster runner.
Paces are usually expressed in minutes per mile or minutes per km. We prefer to further classify these paces as intensity and rating of perceived effort (RPE). Why? Because, if you run over undulating ground or in windy conditions pace becomes almost meaningless; 8 minute miles uphill is very different to 8 minute miles downhill.
So, our training pace calculator gives you an intensity rating; this is based on the 10-point Borg scale.
Below the calculator, the different training paces are described.

Current Pace or Goal Pace?

Some runners plan their training according to their goals. For example, a runner has a recent 10k best time of 42 minutes and they want to break 40 minutes for 10k. If they follow a schedule designed around a 40-minute standard then the training will not be optimal for their ability; it will be unrealistic for them — at the moment. Therefore, when using the calculator, it is important to use a recent time that you have actually achieved and not a time you'd like to do.

Each pace is derived from a recent race result; this result must be obtained from a mostly flat race in no more than light windy conditions. If you have no recent race results then you can use our race prediction and pace tools to guide you.

Training Pace Calculator

Enter recent race result time for:
Time (in hours : mins : secs)

Training paces in minutes per mile, mins per km, mins per 400m and rating of perceived effort.

5k race pace

10k race pace

Threshold pace

Marathon race pace

Long run pace

Training paces and intensity explained

Training at specific paces, e.g. 6 minutes per mile, is fine if your runs are flat, the weather is calm, the temperature is not extreme, the terrain firm, i.e. consistency is key. Of course in the real world this is not always the case, and this is why it is often better to train using intensity or perceived effort as your gauge. Here we look at how training paces relate to perceived effort. Of course, this is very subjective and will vary from one runner to the next. It will also vary for individual runners on a run-by-run basis, because our perception of effort depends on how we are feeling at a given time.

Perceived effort can be quite difficult to assess, the best way is to give a very quick gut-feeling type of assessment without trying to analyse too much, i.e. on a scale of 0-10 how hard is this? It is a remarkably useful scale. So good in fact that it is commonly used in the lab. Indeed, research has indicated that we are very good at determining our lactate turnpoint just by the way we feel when running. The training paces below us the 10-point Borg scale.

5k Race Pace - RPE 8

For many road runners, 5k is the shortest race. It is a very hard pace to sustain, it is the fastest speed you can maintain for 5k or 3.1 miles. The body is producing lactate faster than it can use it or clear it. Running at this speed is uncomfortable, and talking is virtually impossible.

10k Race Pace - RPE 7

Not quite as fast as 5k, but a little quicker than half marathon pace. It is slightly faster than lactate turnpoint pace and is still very uncomfortable, especially after running for 6 miles or 10k.

Threshold Pace - RPE 6

For many new runners (and even those with some experience), threshold pace is the hardest to understand; not least because it is also often called tempo pace. We know what it feels like to race a 10k or half marathon, but we don't have those associations to relate to threshold pace. Threshold — more specifically anaerobic threshold — is so-called because it describes the intensity at which the physiological changes occur at lactate turnpoint, whereas tempo is a name for a running pace (and not necessarily the same one). Lactate turnpoint is only really determined in the lab. It is the point at which lactate accumulates in the muscles faster than it can be cleared from the blood. It is however a crucial pace, because if we can increase the speed at which it occurs we will be able to run faster. Indeed, training at and around threshold pace develops the body's ability to do just that. However, it's easy to get bogged down in the science, and it's much easier to think how the pace relates to other training paces. Threshold pace typically equates to the maximum pace sustainable for an hour. For many runners it will be slower than 10k but faster than half marathon pace. Elite runners will run a half marathon near threshold, whereas a 60-minute 10k runner will be running their 10k at around threshold pace.

Marathon pace - RPE 4

This is where we have to be a bit careful about perceived effort. In the first few miles of a marathon, marathon pace will feel rather different compared to the last few miles when that same pace can seem impossible; and sometimes proves to be. So, our RPE relates to how that running intensity feels whilst running per se, and not during the latter stages of a marathon.

Long runs and recovery runs - RPE 2

We pair these two because there is such an overlap. Long runs should be building your endurance not tearing you apart. If you run them too fast, your training will suffer because you will not be fresh enough to carry out the other important training sessions. The training effect from long runs occurs at surprisingly low effort levels. Use your long run pace as a pace not to exceed during your long runs. There are exceptions here because it is often useful to start a long run very easy and then pick the pace up to run the last few miles faster, perhaps at marathon pace to get used to running at marathon pace when highly fatigued.
Recovery runs are an important component of training. For a recovery run to be effective, it must be easy. A recovery run should be run no faster than your marathon pace, and usually much slower.

The Borg Scale of Rating of Perceived Effort

Gunnar Borg's original RPE scale uses 15 points from 6 to 20, with 6 equal to rest and 20 equal to exhaustion. Borg subsequently devised a 10-point scale (although there are actually 11 points), which we feel is easier to use; most people are familiar with rating things on a scale of 1-10. Point 10 equates to maximal intensity — being chased by a big hungry dog for instance.

Borg's 10-point scale:

0 – Nothing at all
1 – Very light
2 – Fairly light
3 – Moderate
4 – Somewhat hard
5 – Hard
7 – Very hard
10 – Very, very hard

Train your brain and run faster and further

hypnosis head

Find out more

Search for more running info

Running to lose weight?
Do it the right way

Learn more

SKINS Sportswear OutletSKINS Clearance Sale

Follow us on Twitter

find us on facebook

Articles from Running Press

TomTom Runner GPS Watch on the Cheap

Tom Tom Runner I’ve been using a Garmin Forerunner 205 for quite a few years now, not for every run, but occasionally when I want some distance and pace data. After discovering Strava and using ... read more

Increase your muscle strength with visualisation

Is it really possible to build muscle and get stronger without doing any physical exercise, but instead just by thinking about doing the exercise? The science says yes. Perhaps it’s easier to un ... read more

10k Session based on the science of Peter Snell

Peter Snell had a rather brief athletic career. A surprise 800m Gold in the 1960 Rome Olympics, world records for 800m, 880yds and 1 mile in 1962. Olympic Golds for 800m and 1500m in 1964. In 1965 he ... read more

Don’t catch a cold losing sleep

The runners’ nightmare scenario: 15 weeks into a 16-week marathon schedule, tingling nose, sneezing, itching, sore throat, running nose. All tell-tale signs that the dreaded cold is on its way. ... read more

How to improve 5k time without running more

The rule of specificity states that we must train the discipline that we want to improve. i.e. if you want to be a faster runner, then run, don’t cycle. Of course, it’s not quite that simp ... read more