The Easiest Way To Figure Out Your Race Pace

Now you can easily zero in on your ideal speed for a 5K, 10K, half and full marathon, all by taking this one simple test.


You know that feeling when you’re registering for a race and you’re asked for your “expected finish time”? Sometimes, sure, you have it nailed. Other times, you wish there were a drop-down that reads: “Do I look like a fortune teller?”

Whether you’re trying out a new distance or it’s been a while since you tested your wheels, there’s plenty of opportunity to be unsure about race pace, even for experienced runners. Eric Orton, who coached author Christopher McDougall to ultra-distance as told in the book Born to Run, works with runners of all abilities and has come up with a simple way to figure out expected race pace: a 1-mile test.

“The mile has been showed to be a great predictor up to a marathon distance,” says Orton, who has worked with a number of individuals and groups at running camps, primarily in Jackson Hole, Wyo. ( After this test, you’ll be ready for any training plan with race pace workouts.

The test is best done at a track for consistency.

12–15 min. very easy jogging
4 x 30 sec. pickups, building speed to a moderate/fast effort, with 1 min. rest in between
2 min. at a moderate effort with 1–2 min. rest just before the mile

The test:
Reset your watch to record only this portion. Run 1 mile as fast and as steady as you can.
Avoid starting out too fast and slowing way down at the end. Aim for a consistent pace. Stop your watch at the finish—use this time!

5–10 min. easy

Use your 1-mile time in these calculations to figure out a target race-pace range (or go to our calculator). With proper prep, you can expect your finish time to fall in the 1-to-2 range. Of course, you do still have to train!

1-mile pace = _______ 
(convert time to decimal, so 9:30 would be 9.5, for example). We’ll call this 1MP.

1MP x 0.09 + 1MP = 5K1
1MP x 0.05 + 1MP = 5K2
5K pace = from 5K1 to 5K2

1MP x 0.14 + 1MP = 10K1
1MP x 0.10 + 1MP = 10K2
10K pace = 10K1 to 10K2

Half Marathon
1MP x 0.19 + 1MP = HM1
1MP x 0.15 + 1MP = HM2
Half-marathon pace = between HM1 and HM2

1MP x 0.25 + 1MP = M1
1MP x 0.20 + 1MP = M2
Marathon pace = between M1 and M2

Read More:
Should You Be Doing Race Pace Long Runs?
Should You Run With A Pace Group?