Whether you’ve recently got into running or you’re a veteran who’s been at it for years – pace is something that you’re bound to think about during training. While pace is not necessarily important for all runners – some may choose to focus more on distance than speed, for example – knowing how fast you can run, and aiming to improve that, is a great way to progress mentally and physically as a runner.
What is a good running pace?
There isn’t really a hard and fast answer to this question. Different runners will be comfortable running at different speeds, and of course the length of the run you’re doing will impact how quickly you complete it.
However, if you’re looking for an average to compare yourself to, perhaps with a view to increasing your speed – or if you’re just generally interested in how your running ability stacks up to that of others – then the information in the table below may be of interest:
Average pace for a run
21k (half marathon)
Men: average time
Women: average time
What pace should I run at?
Ultimately, you should run at whatever pace you are comfortable running at. The key is finding a balance between pushing yourself just enough, but not going so intensely that you are at risk of injury. There are many factors that will contribute to the pace that is right for you and your body – for example your gender, age, weight, running experience and general fitness.
You can work out a suitable running pace for yourself by timing how quickly you can run one mile (or about 1.5 kilometres):
- Pick a track that is as flat as possible
- Warm up for at least 5-10 minutes beforehand
- Run at a pace where you are pushing yourself, but not running at maximum speed
- Time how long it takes you to run 1.5km / 1 mile.
What is a good running pace for a beginner?
As a beginner runner, you’re bound to run more slowly than someone who has been running for a long time – and this is especially true when you’re working to achieve a new race-length distance. For example, the first time you run a 5k length without stopping, you’re unlikely to be able to run it in the average time (around 29 minutes for men and 35 minutes for women).
That’s why, for beginners, it can often be beneficial to focus on distance rather than pace.
Once you are able to run a five-kilometre distance, you can then look to increase your speed for that length. The same is applicable for when you work yourself up to running 10k, 15k, and more.
How to improve your running pace
Once you have a good idea of how long, on average, it takes you to run a given distance. You can look to improve this. Or, you may be looking to ‘beat’ your personal best (PB) by running the distance faster than you ever have before as a one-off.
There are lots of different techniques that you can use to increase your running speed, below are a just a few that we’ve picked out for you:
- Improve your technique
You may be able to make noticeable improvements to your running pace just by making small tweaks to the way that you run. For example, if you find yourself hunching over, straighten your back and “run tall”. If you have a tendency to run on your toes and the balls of your feet, make an effort to push off from your heels. Ensure that your arms and shoulders are not tense but relaxed, with your arms swinging by your side.
- Interval training
To enable your body to be able to achieve a faster running pace, you have to introduce your muscles to the intensity and effort required to achieve that speed. A great way of doing this is to run in intervals – where you run at a very high speed/intensity for a short period of time, and then a slow speed/intensity to recover, and repeat as necessary.
- Fuel properly
Making sure that your body has the proper fuel that it needs can make an astounding difference to your running capability. It’s important to supply your body with both nutritious food and adequate hydration. Check out our Nutrition for Runners section for more information on fuelling your body properly.
- Get the right gear
The clothing that you wear can also have an impact on your speed. You should always try to gear up in dedicated running clothing and equipment. Not only will the lightweight design of running clothing and shoes mean that you have to carry around less weight, but you’ll probably find yourself better ventilated and more comfortable all round.