How To Find Your Happy Pace Running With Intervals

I’ve received a lot of questions on my last post A Cameo On The Walking Dead.  There I spoke about how I’ve come to terms that I will be walking anytime I run, any distance, and how that seems to be working out for me. I wrote about my own process of discovering the Jeff Galloway method which suggests run/walk intervals. As I wrote before, I started with a four minute run and one minute walk (4/1) because in my skewed mind, I believed that running any less than four minutes would not be considered running.

I failed. I couldn’t keep the four-minute interval.

Eventually I got to my happy interval of 2 minute run and 40 seconds walk (2/40s) by trial and error and by recognizing a few key things about myself. I had never read Galloway’s books, nor really explored his website (because I am a rebel like that). Had I done so, I could’ve spared myself some trouble.

Unlike his mom, Fearless is a natural runner.

Unlike his mom, Fearless is a natural runner.

Also since I last wrote, I met with two friends who are coming into the sport of triathlon and to whom the run/walk approach sounded more welcoming than trying to run straight through. So this is a post to help you find your “happy pace” and then you can figure out what your run/walk interval is.

The amazing thing is that I didn’t follow any of these directions myself (rebel, remember?); muddled through many miles and ended up exactly with what Galloway states. Instead of doing the simple things outlined here, I experimented with run/walk intervals until I found what I liked.  It was NOT a fun process. Turns out, my 2/1 happy interval relates almost exactly to my happy pace.  So instead of going through all that trouble, you can just do this:

Take a speed test

I’ve read about both a 5k (3.1 miles) speed test and a mile test. Although this will sound surprising to my Coach who knows how much I dislike all of it, if I am going to do a speed test, I go for the 5k. I’m working on long distance running … therefore testing my speed for longer than a mile seems sensible. Turns out the numbers are kind of the same, but the confidence and experience on what it feels to push for that long is worth the effort every once in a while.

Both are simple … warm up and then run as fast as you can. Easy enough. For people like me who struggle with pacing and speed this might help get through the 5k test.

Warm Up: Run slow enough to comfortably maintain a conversation. Since I tend to be nervous about this stuff, I start out too fast so I cut the warm up from the prescribed mile to half a mile. Might not be smart, but too torturous otherwise.

Mile 1: Run so that you are no longer comfortably holding a conversation, but you can blurt out a hello to a fellow runner, or a word here or there.

Mile 2: This does not feel good. You are uncomfortable but focused on your test. You don’t look to the sides or communicate, every brain cell you have is focused on breathing.

Mile 3: You doubt why you are doing this. You are running faster than you think you can, it hurts, and now your brain cells have given up, your body is screaming for air as your heart moves itself closer to your mouth thinking that will help it get more oxygen. You feel like you can’t finish but you keep going. The temptation to stop is tremendous but you keep going. You leave your soul on the road as you reach the three-mile mark.

Now doesn’t that sound like fun?

5k run test

Find Your Pace For The Distance You Are Training For

If you did the mile test, go to Galloway’s page called The Magic Mile (linked). There you put your time and it will calculate your pace at different distances. So for example an 8.30 mile returns these values:

  • 9.03 min/mile 5k
  • 9.46 min/mile 10k
  • 10.12 min/mile (2h10’) Half Marathon
  • 11.03 min/mile (4h49’) Marathon

The odd thing is that when I was in a running focused program preparing for the Miami Marathon in 2014, these were almost exactly my times at actual races in the different distances.

The Miami Marathon!

The Miami Marathon!

For the mile or the 5k test, you can also use this other calculator from McMillan Running that helps you figure out the different paces you would need for different sorts of workouts. Similar to this one from Runners World. So, if you ran your 5k in 28 minutes, you would get this information:

  • Easy Run: 11:17 min/mile
  • Tempo Run: 9:27 min/mile
  • Maximum Oxygen: 8:32 min/mile
  • Speed Form: 7:55 min/mile
  • Long Run: 11:17 – 12:41 min/mile
  • Yasso 800s: 4:23 per 800 meters

Now that you know what pace you want to be running at, go back to Galloway to see what the run/walk interval should be. Or just look at the table below:

Walk Break Ratios
8 min/mi run 4 min / walk 35 seconds
9 min/mi run 4 min / walk 1 min
10 min/mi run 3 min / walk 1 min
11 min/mi run 2 min 30 sec / walk 1 min
12 min/mi run 2 min / walk 1 min
13 min/mi run 1 min / walk 1 min
14 min/mi run 30 sec / walk 30 sec
15 min/mi run 30 sec / walk 45 sec
16 min/mi run 30 sec / walk 60 sec

So if my friend Kelly is training for a half marathon pace of 10min/miles she would do a 3/1 interval. And do you know what is going to happen if she sticks to that interval for the whole time? She will run a 10 min/mile.

I was floored when I saw that that for an 11 min/mile pace the ratio was a 2.30/1 interval. This was almost the exact same interval I got to from trial and error and I felt got me to a happy running pace.

It works!

Then I realized the 4/1 ratio was for a 9 min/mile and thought: “no wonder I felt like a failure.” I also thought I can slow down and change my intervals on the Ironman marathon depending on how I feel up to 30seconds/45 seconds. I am not planning on it, but now I know what I can and can’t do in terms of walking to be able to finish!  Do you know how much trouble I could’ve spared myself if I had just read the darn book?

So be smarter than I am. And just do things the right way from the get go. Find your happy pace, and be happy whatever your run goals are!

Whatever your interval, pace, or distance ... make sure you are ready for the next one by recovering with chocolate milk!

Whatever your interval, pace, or distance … make sure you are ready for the next one by recovering with chocolate milk!

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