PH Racing Club

Fife-based performance running club

Sustained Pace Runs

Sustained Pace Runs

  1. About Sustained Pace Runs
  2. Duration and Pace
  3. Calculating Target Pace

About Sustained Pace Runs

I have chosen to call these sustained pace runs but, as with every other type of session and similar, you will see many other terms used for these runs such as steady-state runs, fast continuous runs or simply tempo runs. I differentiate these from tempo runs as they are longer and slower and use of the same term to describe different runs can confuse people and get them running at the wrong paces. Tempo runs, at the paces prescribed in my tempo run document, should be a maximum of 30 minutes in continuous duration. These sustained pace runs can be any distance or duration depending on the distance you are training for.

A sustained run is exactly that, a run maintained at a sustained pace up to 2 hours in duration for marathon runners. The pace will be slower and potentially longer than the race pace you are training for but can also vary depending on the point in your training you are at i.e. building the base endurance or starting to focus on race specific stuff. However, to develop the sustained runs they should not be ran faster but the duration gradually increased. The pace should only be increased following a demonstrable improvement in fitness and performance and a sustained period of training. For example after a PB in a race you can re-evaluate your target training paces.

During base training when you are building endurance and working towards a race specific phase these runs are aimed to aerobic conditioning to prepare the body to be able to handle the race specific sessions later in the training plan. This helps us build endurance. During this phase athletes are recommended to perform a mix of sustained pace runs regardless of the primary event and athletes across the range of events can run these sessions together.

Once in the race specific preparation these runs are aimed at the specific event you are training for to fine tune aerobic power and endurance. These runs will typically be shorter and quicker than during the base training phase. In addition, due to the increase in pace and demands of these events, for many of these the focus is on interval training and these sustained pace runs at a shorter distance and faster pace only really get used at the longer distances and are omitted from these guide as should really be part of a more formal structured training program.

All of these runs also help us work on the mental aspects of racing to ensure the athlete stays focused on maintaining the pace and sustaining the effort for the duration of the run.

It is a good idea to include one of these runs once a week in your training plan but suitably balanced with any other runs and sessions to ensure you can hit the primary sessions at the require effort/pace/intensity. Too many runs at this pace will leave you tired and unable to hit the primary races at the required level resulting in less than optimal training effects and the potential of fatigue, injury and over training.

It is recommended to start with the runs at the shorter duration and build up to the longer duration as you get fitter and used to the run. For those starting off a good level of fitness and regular training base the starting point can be made longer. As training progresses the runs should be increased in duration but not in speed.


  • Always do a good warm-up before a session and a good warm-down afterwards.
  • Don’t do runs too fast!
  • Try and run these with others to help each other out and control the pace. It doesn’t matter if there are small differences between your race times, given the nature of these sessions it can be beneficial to all run together i.e. for 19 and 19:30 pace 5km runners they could run these sessions in a group.

Duration and Pace

The tables below gives the ideal run duration and pace for different target race distances although as mentioned above it is recommended for athletes to run a selection of these for all round aerobic development.

Primary Event

Run Duration (mins)

Run Pace Range (per mile)


20 to 40

1.4 to 1.5 slower than race pace


30 to 50

1.3 to 1.4 slower than race pace


45 to 70

1.15 to 1.25 slower than race pace


60 to 90

1.15 to 1.25 slower than race pace

Half Marathon

80 to 100

1.15 to 1.25 slower than race pace


105 to 150

1.1 to 1.2 slower than race pace

Calculating Target Pace

The table above details run paces relative to the target race so here I intend to demonstrate how these should be used to calculate the required pace.

For a run 1.3 x slower than race pace this is 30% slower than race pace so:

  • We establish race pace
  • We convert this to a total number of seconds
  • We calculate 10% of this i.e. divide by 10
  • We then calculate the required percentage required i.e. 30% is 3 times / 15% is 1.5 times the 10% figure calculated
  • We then add this figure to the original race pace to determine the target run pace


  • A 4:30 1500m runner has a race pace of 3:00/km which is 180seconds
  • 10% of 180secs = 0.1 * 180 = 18
  • Target run pace range is 1.3 to 1.4 times slower than race pace

Andy Jannetta has also made this handy calculator to work it out for you!

%d bloggers like this: