Setting Race and Pace Goals for 2021

Coach Casey · January 14, 2021

As we roll into 2021 with high hopes of better things to come, it’s time to start planning for what we all anticipate to be an epic return to road racing! With our fingers crossed and our tentative plans set, we can start thinking ahead. Now is a great time to begin setting some preliminary race, pace, and running goals for 2021. Goals for racing and pacing need to be accurate, attainable, and trackable. As you begin to set your race and pace goals for 2021, use the following tips to be sure you’re executing your training properly to reach those goals, and you’ve determined the right goals to set yourself up for success!

Tips for Race and Pace Goals for 2021!  

Setting the proper pace and race goals for 2021 is key!

Training Tips:

Do a vVO2max field test

Lots of mumbo jumbo language here, but it’s actually quite simple. You need to do some type of fitness/speed test to determine your different training paces and get an accurate estimate of your potential race paces. Doing a vVO2max (velocity at VO2max) test can give you all that information easily. The best way to do a field test version of this, without going to a physiology lab, is to run a 2 mile race to exhaustion. Find a flat, even course and run it to the maximum of your ability. Your per mile average from that test will serve as your 100% vVO2max at that given training time.

Choose your workout and race paces

Use the information and paces determined from your vVO2max field test to dictate your paces for training and racing within that given training cycle:

5k pace = 97% of vVO2max

10k pace = 92% of vVO2max

1/2 Marathon pace = 88%-90% of vVO2max

Marathon pace = 82% of vVO2max

Threshold pace = 85%-90% of vVO2max

Base Run pace = 75%-80% of vVO2max

Long Run pace = 70% of vVO2max

Goal Setting Tips:

Start with a race distance you know

Most of us have not had the opportunity to race in quite a while. This is especially true of races within a traditional racing environment. Unpredictable courses, shoulder-to-shoulder competition, adverse weather conditions, race tactics. Ease yourself back into racing in 2021 by starting with a race distance you know well and are comfortable with. Be sure to get your feet wet before you dive in. Start with a 5k or 10k before tackling your very first 1/2 marathon or full marathon.

Don’t use ranges – Set specific goal splits

Use your training data to set specific goal paces/splits, not ranges. Instead of setting a goal of running 7:30-7:40 per mile for your race, set a specific goal of 7:35 per mile. Not only does this allow for strong mental focus, but you avoid being disappointed if you run on the slower end of your range knowing that you could’ve shaved 5-10sec off each mile.

Plan for a pace, not a finishing time

Set your race goals based on the specific pace you want to run for different distances within the race. What’s your goal per mile split? How fast do you want to run each kilometer? By setting pace goals versus finish time goals you provide a detailed tracking system for during the race with a series of small victories set in place. Every mile that you hit your goal pace is something to celebrate. Ultimately those mini victories will add up to the big one!

Focus on a few key workouts and prep races

Don’t get bent out of shape if every training run or workout doesn’t go exactly to plan based on your race and pace goals. Set a series of key workouts spread throughout your training cycle that you really want to nail! Furthermore, schedule a few key prep races to practice executing your goal pace and strategy. Running a full marathon in 4 months? Run 1-2 half marathons ahead of time to practice your exact pace and fueling/hydration tactics. Not every day of training needs to be perfect. Just be sure to get in a few key confidence-building sessions!

Improve one step at a time

Especially coming off of extended time off racing, don’t swing for the fences on your very first race of 2021. Your goals for 2021 should be incremental improvements. Negative splitting a race. Improving your pace by 2-5 seconds per mile. Finishing a race with a final 800 meter surge. These are all successful and reasonable improvements that over time will add up to big personal bests and race successes. Be patient with yourself and your success as you move back into more consistent and competitive racing.

Don’t stress on a bad day

Sh*% happens! Not every race will be perfect no matter how well prepared you are or how reasonable your race and pace goals. Bad days of competition happen to even the best of us! Just watch the documentary The 41st Day and you’ll see what I mean. Don’t stress or linger on a bad day. Set aside 24 hours to feel bad for yourself and then move on, learn from it, and get ready for your next shot! 

Start 2021 off right by setting your pace and race goals with Charge Running! Sign up now for unlimited access to live, professional coaching and all the tips and tricks you need to be successful this year!

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