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How Fast Should I Run?

What do a 6-minute mile and a 12-minute mile have in common? It’s the same distance.

As a new runner, it’s intimidating to head out and start logging miles, whether you run solo or in a group atmosphere. So many individuals have gizmos and gadgets that keep track of their heart rate, calories, miles and pace. Not to mention runners who wear the latest compression sleeves, tights or shoes. It’s a bit overwhelming when you enter the running community. And when the word “run pace” is thrown into conversation…forget about it.

But there is a trick to help you find your right pace. While training plans and slowly building miles is a good start to learn your run pace, Andrew Kastor, elite running coach, shares a few other secrets to help you pick up your speed in a timely fashion. Before you know it, you’ll be passing other runners.

Use time, not miles

New runners should focus on the amount of time they spend running versus aiming for distance. With each run, you’ll notice that time span gets a little easier, because you’re building your endurance and cardiovascular health. Your pace will drop naturally and you’ll run more miles. Maybe the first time you will only be able to get a couple miles in, but over time you’ll gradually notice 2 miles turns into 2.5, then 3 and so on.

Related: If You Run Slow, Who Cares?

Let breathing be a good guide

“New runners should focus on completing their run at a comfortable effort (aerobic),” shares Kastor. “If breathing is too heavy to converse with a friend while running, then slow the pace down.”

Use a run/walk approach

“A walk is defined as always having one foot on the ground at all times. A comfortably fast walk is around 15 minutes per mile. Running is defined as both feet leaving the ground at the same time. I don’t believe in using the word jog,” says Kastor. “A newbie runner should be running faster than 15 minutes per mile. Shooting for  12 to 13 minute pace per mile would be a good range to start off with. That is of course with the walk breaks structured in.”

Start with a 3-minute run, then walk for 1 minute to recover. This will help you keep your breathing in check and heart rate up. Continue this pattern for the time you allotted to run. Do this for a week or two until it feels comfortable. Then aim for 4-minute runs and 1-minute walks. Continue this pattern as you gain more endurance strength.

Listen to your body

“If you think you are running too fast, you probably are!” expresses Kastor. Your body can tell when its time to back off, so let it tell you so. Don’t try to push yourself. If you do, you’ll risk injury.

Related: What Pace Should You Be Doing Your Long Run

Fara Rosenzweig

Fara Rosenzweig is a writer, editor, and certified personal trainer. She got her first taste of the gym at age 14 and fell in love with the fitness crowd. After suffering a back injury her freshman year of college, she had to set her ballet slippers aside and rehab her back. That’s when she found her passion for teaching fitness and helping others challenge themselves. Her senior year of college she ran in her first 5K and traded her ballet slippers for the latest (and brightest) pair of running shoes. Fara loves talking health, sports and fitness with any one and everyone. Her love for storytelling earned her an Emmy Award and has been seen in many other publications, such as Refinery29, Active.com, MyFitnessPal and Health.