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How Fast Should I Run?

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Updated May 21, 2014

Man running on pier in front of city skyline
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Question: How Fast Should I Run?
"I'm new to running and I'm not sure how fast I should be running. What's the right pace?"
Answer: Many runners, especially beginners, are always curious about what pace they should be running. Most daily runs should be done at an "easy" pace. But what's the best way to establish what "easy" means? The best and simplest way to determine this is to run slow enough so that you can carry on a conversation. If you're running with someone, that means you should be able to speak in complete sentences, not just give "yes" or "no" answers. If you're running alone, you should be able to sing "Happy Birthday" without gasping for air. For some new runners, a conversational pace may mean doing a run/walk combination .

Running at conversational pace (also called base running), has lots of benefits, including: helps create a more efficient running style; helps your muscles to learn to burn fat more efficiently, receive and process oxygen better, and deal better with lactic acid; trains your heart and lungs to become more efficient at absorbing, delivering, and utilizing oxygen.

As a beginner, most of your runs should be at conversational pace. Don't worry about your pace per mile -- if you can pass the "talk test", you're running at the right speed.

Once you build your fitness level and gain more experience as a runner, you may want to start doing a faster run once a week, such as a fartlek run or a tempo run. But even the most experienced runners don't run every workout at a hard effort. They do easy-paced runs at least every other day to give their bodies a chance to recover and re-build themselves to be stronger. Running hard every day could lead to injury as well as physical and mental burnout from overtraining.

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