To start, let’s define what is Five Pace Training Method is:

Imagine holding up all five of your fingers: your middle finger represents your race pace. The idea behind Five-Pace Training Theory is that you train at two paces slower than your goal race pace and two paces faster than your goal race pace. This means running at different paces or intensities during workouts, either faster or slower than your goal race pace. Let’s dive in:

“In today’s newsletter, I’ll provide more insight into this type of training and explain why it is beneficial for your own running. This theory mainly applies to races like the 1500 meters, mile, 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, and even some ultramarathons. We’ll discuss these pace changes and the types of workouts that can improve your running.

The Two Faster Notches

The Five Pace Training Method might be a bit of an oversimplification, but let’s use an example: if you’re training for a sub-1:30 half marathon, your goal pace is 6:52 per mile (4:16/km). For the two paces faster than your race pace, you might want to train at your 5k or 10k pace during interval workouts like kilometer repeats or mile repeats. This would be slightly faster than the 6:52 pace, perhaps around 6:40 or 6:30 per mile (4:00/km) for these repeats and threshold tempo runs.

Going a notch faster, we could be talking about doing 400-meter repeats that are even faster than your 5k pace. This could include one-minute hill sprints or high-intensity reps to develop lactic acid tolerance. Mixing in these different types of workouts, maybe once in a 10-day cycle, contributes to a well-rounded training program. You might say, “Great, but Sage, I just want to do easy aerobic base miles.” We’ll address that shortly when I explain the slower paces.

But if you want to reach your full potential in the sport, you not only need consistent high mileage and a big aerobic base for distance running, but you also need some of these higher-intensity speed workouts. Part of it is for running mechanics and building muscle strength, leg strength, and increasing your stride length.

When you do one-minute hill sprints at high intensity or 400-meter repeats way faster than your half-marathon race pace of 6:52 per mile, like a sub-six-minute mile pace, you’re working on that premium speed. This will give you more muscle power and may increase your VO2 max, your maximum capacity at 100% maximum heart rate.

It’s going to help you minimize lactate clearance and lactate levels, allowing you to run with that extra throttle, that extra power in your engine. Alright, so we have those two notches, those two paces faster. You’re getting a lot of interval training, maybe a 20-minute tempo run closer to 10k pace.

The Two Slower Notches

Now, the two notches slower than your goal race pace of 6:52 per mile for that 1:30 half-marathon example would be an easy recovery pace. Maybe it’s 8:30 per mile or 9:00 per mile (over 5 min/km for a 1:30 half marathon). Your recovery jog could be the start of a long run, warming up, or cool-down pace. So very relaxed, easy, conversational running.

The next notch slower would be what we call “up tempo.” (BONUS: Click HERE to download our free Pace Intensity Spectrum Chart PDF.) For many people, it will be closer to marathon race pace, maybe a little slower. Some people call it aerobic threshold or ventilatory threshold—those are more scientific terms. But we call it “up tempo.” In college, we called it “feel good pace.” It could be a progression run, maybe you’re doing 8 miles or 12K, and you start off pretty easy and relaxed, and as you feel good, you push the pace down a little. It’s not a true tempo run, it’s not to improve lactate threshold, and it shouldn’t be over 80% maximum heart rate, basically. It’s harder running with a purpose, relaxed running.

As with most things, there are nuances…

This is a bit of an oversimplification, as there are nuances where you run different paces. Having said all of this, remember that the vast majority of your training mileage, around 80% on average, or maybe even higher, should be at an aerobic pace. This means building up slowly with consistent high mileage and high volume at very easy paces to avoid injury and achieve adaptations like increased mitochondrial density, improved blood flow, and enhanced capillary bed density. This process also gradually strengthens your tendons and muscles with progressively higher mileage at slow paces while incorporating faster pace work.

So, 80% of your mileage should focus on aerobic base-building running. The “icing on the cake” is the hard intervals, VO2 max work, and the training at race pace and faster, especially for 5k and 10k races. Be cautious with marathon and ultra training, as race pace becomes less defined. At the end of the day, the key idea is to vary your paces and intensity to provide new stress for the body to adapt to, making you extra fit while staying healthy.

I hope this helps! Happy running and have a great week.

• Coach Sage Canaday