Taking the Guesswork Out of Running Faster
Traditional running pace calculators let you input two of three variables and will calculate the third for you. For example, if you input your distance and time, it will tell you your pace.
It’s easy to calculate your pace from time and distance data using calculators like these, but this won’t help you get faster.
You need to understand the two variables that you have under your control at all times as a runner: your running cadence and your stride length. Then you will be able to train more effectively.
Running Cadence: Your leg turnover rate or how many steps you take in one minute of running.
Stride Length: The distance you travel with one running step.
If you use a Garmin or other run-tracking device, you should be able to see your average cadence and stride length for previous runs if you go back and look at your data.
The True Running Speed Equation
Did you know that if you multiply your running cadence by your running stride length, you will get your running speed? It’s true! But it’s not as simple as just multiplying two numbers and getting a result. Because cadence and stride are usually measured in steps per minute and meters (or feet) respectively, and running speed, or pace, is measured in minutes per mile, you’ll have to do a lot of fancy converting to get the actual result you’re looking for. But fear not–I have just the thing for you.
The ORS Running Pace Calculator
I’ve created a running pace calculator that does the converting for you. Using it is simple. Just look at past data from your run-tracking app to find your average cadence and stride length for a typical run. Input the numbers into the calculator, and press “done” or “enter”. Voila, you’ll be able to see your running pace.
Let’s look at an example. This screenshot is from a 5.6 mile run I did recently, where I had an average run cadence of 173 steps per minute and an average stride length of 0.87 meters, which is typical for me.
If I input these numbers into the ORS Running Pace Calculator, I can see that my average pace was 10.69 minutes per mile (10:42). Try it for yourself or look at the screen shot below.
Setting a Race Goal: Where the Magic Happens
Let’s say I want to crush my next 5K! From the display, you can see that at this cadence and stride length, my 5K race time would be 33.25 minutes (or 33:15 when you convert the decimal to minutes). So I know I can run a 5K in a little over 33 minutes because I did it on this day where I ran more than five miles.
But, what if my real 5K race goal is to run it in under 30 minutes? How would my cadence and stride rate have to change for me to be able to reach my goal? By inputting various guesses into the calculator, I can see that the following scenarios would result in a sub-30 5K:
- Cadence: 192 | Stride Length: 0.87 (higher cadence, same stride length)
- Cadence: 173 | Stride Length: 0.97 (same cadence, longer stride length)
- Cadence: 180 | Stride Length: 0.93 (slightly higher cadence, slightly longer stride length)
How will knowing this help me train more effectively and reach my 5K goal?
Let me ask you this–when you follow a training plan, how conscious are you of your cadence and stride length? In fact, do you pay attention to them at all when you run? If not, how do training plans help you improve? By themselves, they don’t! That’s why following a training plan and working with a personal running coach can be so effective because the coach will pay attention to these kinds of things and help you get the most out of your training.
But let’s say you don’t have a coach? What else can you do?
If you don’t have a coach and you use the ORS Running Pace Calculator, you can set realistic cadence and stride length goals and start working on optimizing both. But how?
The best way to optimize your running cadence is to first measure it, then monitor it, and then manage it.
You can measure your cadence by going out for a run and counting how many times your feet hit the ground during one minute of running (or do it for 15 seconds and multiply by four) or by looking at past running data from an app that tracks your cadence. Count each footfall, whether it’s your right or your left. It should be somewhere in the 150-190 range for one minute if you’re running. (If you’re walking, it will be lower.)
You can monitor your average cadence by finding a running app that tracks it and looking at your results over time. The best app to use is Garmin Connect, while also using some sort of wrist-based Garmin watch or foot-pod. Be wary of apps that you only use on your phone because depending on where you hold your phone when you run, they may not be able to accurately measure each time one of your feet hits the ground. If you don’t have a Garmin, you can always resort to the manual counting method.
Once you have an idea of your average, comfortable running cadence, you can manage it using a tempo-based cueing system. Some people use a metronome app, some use music. Some use Off to a Running Start music-based workouts. Whichever method you use, try to increase your average cadence by a few beats per minute each week for a few weeks. If you start at 170 steps per minute, for example, you could run to music playlists that are in the 170-174 BPM range the first week, then move up to 172-176 BPM during week 2, etc., until you’re comfortable running for a decent amount of time at your higher cadence goal. (Tip: I’ve created tons of BPM-based music playlists on both Spotify and Apple Music that you could try.)
Maximizing Your Stride Length
Most people shorten their stride a little when they’re working on increasing their cadence and this could make your overall running speed plateau. To get faster, you’ll have to make sure you don’t do this by working on your stride at the same time you work on your cadence. But increasing your running stride is harder than it sounds. And if you’re not careful, you could wind up injuring yourself. If you’re going to work on your stride, read up on the proper way to do it, start working with a certified running coach, or follow one of our Off to a Running Start audio-guided running training plans that teach you how to work on your stride safely and effectively.
Put the ORS Running Pace Calculator to Work for You
If you want to run faster and feel like you’ve tried everything with no results, I encourage you to give this approach to improving your running speed a try. Just set a realistic goal using the ORS Running Pace Calculator, then work on optimizing your cadence and maximizing your stride.
You’ll be glad that you did.
Keep running to the beat!
Hey, let me know if the information in this blog post helped you run faster by commenting below!