Training Paces

Training paces confuse me. Why do different programs suggest different paces? How do I know what is right? Isn't that pace too slow for my goals? Other than a glance at my paces on the McMillan calculator, I haven't spent time focusing on proper training paces and really figuring out what is right for me. However, reading the Hanson Marathon Method book is opening my eyes to the science behind training paces and why they matter.

The confusing part to me was why McMillan recommends one set of paces while Hanson suggests a different set. Which is right? I'm sure in a way they are both right and both are based on their own reasoning. At the moment I'm choosing to follow the Hanson training plan, and I'll be targeting those training paces as well. I admit I'm a little overwhelmed by figuring this thing out.

Here's the outline for my half marathon goal time of 2 hours (technically 2:02 was the book's target time.) I recorded the 2:10 paces just for comparison because that's closer to my current PR of 2:07. The book itself doesn't go into half marathon pacing, but the website outlines a plan and I used the training paces from the marathon goal times that included my half goal time.

The recovery run and aerobic easy paces are really easy and seem way too slow even for me. That said, I'm trying to hit them anyway. The point is for easy days to feel truly easy so you put miles on the legs but still recover. Today's 5 mile easy run was 10:48 average pace and that's pretty close; it felt too easy for training but it was fun to enjoy the day with an easy run so that's fine by me.

The long run pace is pretty close to my usual, I tend to hit between 10-10:30 min/mile average paces there. The tempo pace in the Hanson plan also means race pace, which is different than how I usually think of tempo runs (i.e. that they are faster than race goal pace.) The speed workout splits are a bit slower than my current workouts, but maybe that means I should slow them down. Like I said, I'm overwhelmed but happy to be putting this all in writing so I remember.

Perhaps the most bewildering part to me is how I could run a 2:02 half (or 4:15 full as was the matching marathon time) if my long runs have been so much slower. That's a 9:44 marathon pace compared to a 10:29 long run pace. I suppose the extra miles and speed/tempo work are what does it, but I don't know if my body can translate it that way. We shall see.

Tell me, how do you decide your training paces? Do you follow strict paces or just do what the body wants? Do you think it makes a difference?


  1. I pull my training paces from the Runner's World site. I input the goal marathon time I want and it gives me tempo run paces (faster than race pace) and paces for strides and 800s. I do mile repeats at my 5K pace with 400m recovery between. When I let my body do what it wants, I often run myself into the ground with either too many miles or too much intensity.

    With all these training plans, it is assumed that you run your long runs at an easy effort, so just upping the effort you should be able to go faster in a race. Running any miles faster than your race pace will make it feel easier. If you can manage running all your miles and still hit the faster speed training paces, then once you taper, you'll find that those same paces during training become easier. Then bam, PR. :)

  2. Stick to the prescribed paces ... it works ... I battled that too when I first started with hansons but it helped me clear a lot of time on my previous PR.

  3. Just trust it for now, you can always adjust if you don't meet the goal, but Hanson's has definitely worked for LOTS of people!

  4. Hmm. Those paces seem too slow to me.

    For the marathon, the long run pace has to be slow because you want to get the fat burning genes turned on and you never will if you go fast.

    For a half, you don't need that. You can run the whole thing on stored glycogen. So the only reason is so you don't ruin your next training run.

    So, I would make sure are you get closer to the day you have enough time at goal marathon pace. I would do the long runs as a fast finish long run. ...hit your goal pace for the last few miles. ...yah....listen to your body, if the sched is too easy, you'll know it and an add more goal pace running...


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