Solving the Race Pace Problem



Spring will soon be in the air, and it will be time to hit the roads. The trouble is that coming out of winter, it’s hard to know what kind of shape you are in for your first 5K or 10K of the new racing season. Wonder no more! Several great athletes and coaches share their tried and true predictor workouts for the 5K and 10K.

“My favorite ‘predictor’ session is a simple 2 x 7 minutes (on the track or the road) with 5 minutes recovery — about 10 days before a key track 5K. The goal on the second 7-minute repeat is to be able to run a hair faster than the first one. I have found athletes on race day can average about 5 to 8 seconds per mile faster than the pace they ran on the 2 x 7 minutes.” –Peter Rea, Head Coach of the ZAP Fitness Elite Team

I’ve always been a believer in the idea that if you can run between two-thirds to three-quarters of your target race distance at goal pace in a non-race or non-peak situation (e.g., track time trial or tune-up race without tapering), you should be ready to hit that pace for the target distance. This appears to be true from 5K races (or even the shorter track events) right up to the marathon.” –Kevin Beck, 2:24 Marathoner, Coach and Writer

“After a warm-up, run the following repeats: 2 miles (or 3200m); 1 mile (or 1600m); 2 miles (or 3200m) at your goal 10K pace. Jog for 4 minutes between each repeat. This was always my key predictor for the 10K. I’d run it two to three times throughout my racing season, usually two weeks before my 10K. The workout gives you confidence that you can handle the pace for 6.2 miles.” –Todd Williams, Two-Time 10,000m Olympian and Coach

“A 10K predictor workout that I used many times myself and with others is 6 x 1600m (or 1 mile) with 90 seconds jog between. Try to run them all within a 5-second range. You should be able to race 10K within 15–30 seconds of the pace you can average for this session. For example, I did 6 x 1600m averaging 4:32 (28:20 pace) before running 28:41 at a Boston twilight meet. The prediction would be even tighter with shorter recovery but this workout is already tough mentally.” –Pete Pfitzinger, Two-Time Olympic Marathoner and Coach


Legendary British coach Frank Horwill has observed that, as runners move from the 5K to the 10K to the half marathon, their pace increases by 4 seconds per 400 meters (or 16 seconds per mile). Using this simple equation, you can easily predict your time in your next race. For example, if you run a 10K in 42 minutes (6:46 per mile), you could expect to run a 5K at a pace of 6:30 per mile (20:09) and a half marathon at 7:02 per mile (1:32:08).


In the book, Better Training for Distance Runners, noted coach, advisor and exercise scientist Dr. David Martin outlines an easy equation to estimate your performances using a 5K or 10K time.

Multiply your 5K performance by 2.1 to get an estimate of your 10K ability. Alternatively, multiply your 10K time by 0.48 to estimate your 5K ability. Along those lines, a 17:15 will roughly convert up to a 36:13 10K.

While there is no perfect predictor for performance, you do have some excellent help as your racing season approaches. Use these simple yet effective workouts in your upcoming training to get a good sense of your best race pace.

We’re excited to announce the availability of Greg McMillan’s library of training plans. For every distance between 800 meters and the marathon, these scientifically-based training plans include your McMillan Calculator training paces integrated, coach’s notes, and access to our prehab routines. Plus, the plans are delivered on a runner-friendly training log platform. Starting at $25.99. Learn more.


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“I got my first Boston Qualifier today with a 21 personal record!”

– Ramona M.