Improving your running pace is the same as running faster, but with an extra bit thrown in.

Running faster, say a faster 5K, is one thing. Making a permanent improvement tour running pace needs more work. Because running faster is part of it, but a part, not the whole story.

Let’s say you run a 9-minute mile average, or 9-something per mile. And you’d like to drop that to 8-something per mile.

You will need to run faster. That’s the obvious part. But to improve your consistent pace, you need something more. Running faster will do it, but how?

I’m at 8-something average per mile now. There was a time when I was at 13-something. I made the improvement with two factors:

  • I lost weight
  • I learned to run at an uncomfortable pace I could maintain.

Losing weight as a runner is a no-brainer. The lighter you are the faster you’ll be able to go. There are other factors, but that’s the general principle.

The next point is harder to define.

It goes like this: you push your pace and keep pushing until you are feeling uncomfortable. Then, you hold that pace.

After a while, you’ll want to slow down. The trick is not to. You are trying to maintain the pace even though it’s making you feel uncomfortable.

There are runners that would call this a tempo session. For me, it’s an uncomfortable pace I can hold on to.

What does it feel like? You won’t want to sing or have a conversation – of any kind. You have to concentrate on the pace. Because otherwise, you might slow down.

Once you find that pace, the next step is to hold on to it across all the distances you want to improve your time on. So 5K, 10K and so on .

By the time you achieve new PR’s at those distances, you’ll be running a faster pace than you used to. A faster consistent pace.

The other way of doing it is running intervals and repeats. Many runners do that because it works.

I don’t.

I did try for a while but not access to a track doesn’t help with repeats and intervals. And where I live is hilly. It’s not hard for me to run up lots of elevation.

But pace was an issue for me for a long time. It was when an ultra runner mate of mind said:

“You have to find an uncomfortable pace that you’re comfortable with.”

That’s what did it for me. I never looked back. I went from running everything at the same plodding pace to running several sessions a week as fast as I could.

That got me from 13-minute miles to 12’s. I stuck there for a while so I increased the number of hard sessions.

That got me 11-minutes per mile average. Then, I got stuck again. Next, I spent nine months losing weight. I dropped six stone.

In that time, I kept up the 3-4 uncomfortable sessions a week. That moved me from 11’s to 10’s and then in to 9’s. I stuck at running 9-something minutes per mile for a while. It still is my long run pace.

I kept the uncomfortable pace strategy going and managed to run 8-something per mile average speed. I was delighted. I never thought I’d be able to do it. But I have and I’m working now towards 7-something minutes per mile.

The ability to run at an uncomfortable pace changes as your ability improves. What was an uncomfortable pace becomes a comfortable pace. You push again to move things forward.

To improve your average pace per mile you need to practice running at an uncomfortable pace you are comfortable with. Then, your pace per mile will improve.