Predicting race times made easy

24. August 2017

If you want to improve your best time at a running event, during the preparation you should already know how quickly you can train and what finishing time you can expect to achieve at the competition. The “Peter Riegel run time formula” has proven in practice to be a surprisingly reliable tool for predicting race times as it can calculate remarkably realistic finishing times for any distance. The prerequisite for the most accurate calculation is a test run of at least 5000 metres. 

This is how the Peter Riegel race time predictor works

According to the American engineer Peter Riegel, you can calculate the time T2 that you need for a certain distance with the appropriate training from the time T1 for a different distance according to a simple formula, whereby D1 is the distance for which the time is known and D2 is the new distance. The formula is as follows: T2 = T1 (D2/D1) x 1.07. The exponent 1.07 is taken from the world record results and may need to be adjusted for each individual. For a sprinter, it is somewhat bigger and for an endurance athlete, somewhat smaller. 

The prerequisite for calculating a reliable prediction is distance-specific training over long distances. With just a 5-km best time alone, a marathon time can only be theoretically calculated due to the cardiovascular potential. Whether the calculated time can then also be effectively achieved depends on many factors such as age, body weight, number of years of training, scope of training, weather, route characteristics, etc., not to mention whether the musculoskeletal system has been prepared for the specific running exertion, especially when it comes to longer distances. The error rate of the prediction is also greater the bigger the gap between the competition distances. The calculation of a theoretically possible 10-km time based on an existing 5-km time is therefore much more meaningful than a marathon projection based on the 5-km time. You can find an automatic race time predictor here

Ideally, the second half should be run faster

A running competition needs to be approached with the appropriate speed right from the very first metre! You will then have the greatest chance of getting the maximum out of your personal potential - and won’t overestimate yourself in the first metres of a competition. Those who reign themselves in at the beginning of the race will benefit twice over: Firstly, you will reach the finish with a good feeling if you don’t break down during the second half. And secondly, you will often get a real high because you will find you are only overtaking towards the end – and namely those who didn’t adjust their speed to their performance level at the beginning. 

You need to practice dividing up the race

Those who stand at the starting line aiming to improve their best time will need to practice this regularly in training. You can do this in each individual training unit: If the continuous run takes 45 minutes, during the second half, deliberately try to increase your pace and run each kilometre 5 to 10 seconds faster than usual. If you run an interval on the track, always try to complete the last session as fast as possible. Or when doing a long jog, choose a route back and try to run it faster. 

Only step on the accelerator pedal at the end

Aligning your speed is one thing, focusing on your intermediate goals is another. When we divide up the competition distance into parts and set these as goals, we can support ourselves in achieving the best time. This does not primarily concern time goals, but rather tactics: In the first third you should run very relaxed. You need to feel good, the feeling of great exertion is still a long way off. In the second third, the focus is on economy. The metres and kilometres need to be covered with as little effort as possible. Only in the last third should it feel as if you are really stepping on the accelerator pedal. And only at this stage can you permit yourself to really suffer. Those who already suffer before the second half simply started too quickly. 

Take care on hilly routes

It is much easier to divide up a race on a flat route. This is because you can control your pace well right from the very first metre. However, if we look at road runs as a Grand Prix of Bern, a Kerzers Run or a Lucerne Marathon, which are all peppered with ascending and descending altitude differences, an aggravating factor is added to the profile. We can no longer simply reckon with the average kilometre. When running uphill, we lose time which we cannot make up to the same extent as when running downhill. It is also important as to when exactly in the race the differences in altitude need to be tackled. These are much easier to conquer when you are fresh at the start of the race than at the end of the competition. Both experience and the proper feeling for pace are required here in order to optimally adapt your speed to the terrain.

Use a pacemaker and pace wristband

Pacemakers can also be a great help in competitions (if you want to refer to a pacemaker guide time) as can pace wristbands, which are meanwhile being handed out at various runs. They show the optimum kilometre time for each kilometre according to the profile. Those who adhere to it can assume that they won’t start too quickly, will get the maximum out of their potential and thus achieve the desired finishing time. This is provided the finishing time on the band tallies with their personal performance capability.

Foto: ZVG