Pacing is as much a mental concept as it is a physical one and takes time for children to learn. By middle school students are old enough to begin understanding pace and will see tremendous improvement when they learn to control their speed.
Explain to students that pacing is about using your energy efficiently and follow these guidelines during practices:
- Do a time trial early on to establish a baseline measurement so runners can measure their progress.
- Do activities that help runners distinguish between different speeds.
- Have students share how it feels to run at different speeds.
- Help runners learn how to control their speed and run at a constant speed with constant effort. (Note: This is a little trickier for kids to do and the actual speed will depend on the length of the run and fitness of the runner.)
- Work on pacing strategy. Break a run into smaller segments and strive to hit target times, or splits, for those segments. For middle school kids, working on running even splits (the same time for each segment) is a good goal.
- Use the baseline time trial to calculate initial goal times, target paces, and splits.
- Repeat time trials throughout the season to monitor progress.
- Keep it fun. Pacing is a hard concept to learn. It will take time for kids to learn to control their speed.
- Pace is time divided by distance.
- Goal pace refers to the pace a runner would ultimately like to run for a certain distance by the end of the season.
- A split is the time that it takes to run a specific portion of a race or workout.
- An even split is when a runner consecutively runs equal distances in the same amount of time. Calculate even splits by dividing the race distance by the distance you want splits for. Then take the goal time and divide it by that number to get your even split goal. For example: if you want to run 4 miles in 32 minutes, then to get 1 mile splits you divide 4 by 1 and get 4. Then divide 32 by that 4 to get 8. That means you need to run 8-minute mile splits, or 8 minutes per mile.