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What is a comfortable pace?
What is a comfortable pace?

Unsure exactly what is meant by a 'comfortable' pace? Here's all you need to know.

Ben avatar
Written by Ben
Updated over a week ago

Running is an incredibly inclusive sport but at the end of the day, we're all different.

How should you pace your easy run? What even is a 'comfortable' or 'conversational' pace? What should it feel like?

Let's first agree that a comfortable pace will look different for each and every one of us. This is why we use more abstract metrics to measure the pace. Terms such as 'comfortable', 'conversational', RPE (rate of perceived exertion), and HR (heart rate) zones, are all great ways of measuring the pace at which we should be doing our easy runs. But essentially, every runner's easy pace will be different and will depend on their current performance and endurance.

We're going to break down each of the above and explain exactly how you can use them, to get the most out of your easy run.

What's a comfortable pace?

A 'comfortable' pace is exactly as the name suggests, comfortable. Simple, right? Not so much... When we refer to a comfortable pace of running, this is a pace that we can sustain for a prolonged period of time. But how do we calculate that?

A very useful rough guide to what a comfortable pace might be for you is to add 25-35% to your fastest 1km time.

For example, if your best 1km time is 5 min/km, by adding 30% you get the following:

5 min/km * 1.30 = 6.30 min/km pace

This calculation is not foolproof but will act as a very useful benchmark for finding the right pace for your easy runs.

What's a conversational pace?

In order to understand what a conversational pace might feel like, I want you to listen to your breathing on your next run.

A conversational pace, as the name suggests, should be slow enough that you can speak in full sentences and hold a conversation with someone.

However, on those runs where you're out there, pounding the pavement on our own, it may be hard to determine what that might feel like. This is why you have to listen to your breath. If you can feel and hear yourself breathing heavily, the chances are you may be going a little fast.

If someone stopped you, asking for directions, would you be able to speak to them or would you need a minute to catch your breath? This will act as a great benchmark for whether you've nailed the 'conversational' pace.

What is RPE (rate of perceived exertion)?

The term RPE (rate of perceived exertion) isn't new, but it's becoming an increasingly popular way of measuring the intensity at which to perform some of our runs.

When we introduce the concept of RPE, it presupposes that we understand what different efforts feel like, and are able to recognize the difference between intensities.

If you want to effectively use RPE to measure your easy run efforts, and indeed any other runs, it'll be important to take note of how you're feeling during your runs. All the way from sets of 200m intervals to super long runs.

So, if you work on the premise that walking is a 1 (out of 10) and a flat-out sprint is a 10, your easy runs should feel like a 3-4. This will help you judge your level of intensity on any given day.

Whatever way you want to measure the intensity of your easy runs it's important to remember what you're trying to get from them.

You want to build up the time you're spending on your feet and allow your body to acclimatize to the increase in training volume. Therefore, it's really important that you complete these runs at an intensity that isn't going to significantly impact our ability to recover, ahead of our next session.

There's definitely some truth in the saying "go slow to go fast", and this is where the magic happens.

Is there a difference between a comfortable pace and an easy pace?

In short, no. For easy/comfortable/conversational paces, just focus on it being easy, and do not worry about the pace at all.

Keep in mind, also, that your comfortable or easy pace for a short workout won't be the same as your comfortable pace for a long run, because you might not have yet built the endurance to run comfortably at an easy pace for a long time.

Otherwise said, your conversational pace for your long runs may be slower or decay over time: What feels easy for 5k might not feel easy for 20k.

That's exactly why, when training with Runna, in shorter workouts, you might receive specific easy pace guidance, but then for longer runs, you might just see "comfortable" without an exact target pace. Focus on your pace being easy and sustainable rather than trying to nail a specific number.

What's the relationship between my easy pace and my race pace?

If you're a fast runner with high endurance, your race pace for long-distance races (say, a marathon) will be much higher than the pace at which you run their easy runs (i.e. your conversational or comfortable pace).

For slow runners with lower endurance, the opposite is true: If that's your case, your marathon race pace will be much slower than the pace at which you run your easy runs.

At some point in the middle, your marathon pace and your 'easy' pace will be comparable.

Essentially, this comes down to how long different runners can sustain different paces for, i.e. the relationship between speed and endurance.

For example, you might be able to sustain your target marathon pace for 10k easily, but might lack the endurance to sustain it for a full marathon (yet). A training plan will help you build your endurance over time and help you sustain your target race pace over the entire distance you're aiming for.

If you haven't yet started following a training plan, click on the button below to find out more about our plans and start training:

And, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in touch. We'd love to help!

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