Whether you are trying to lower your 5k time or working towards a half marathon personal record, proper pacing is a tremendous challenge. No matter if it is your first race or your fiftieth, pacing can still be tricky. Here are a few handy tips that can help you learn to pace yourself like a pro!

Weave in rehearsal runs. To nail your target pace during a race, practice in training. Perform this workout once per week for four to six weeks prior to your next 5k:
•    Walk briskly: 3 minutes
•    Run at an easy effort: 10 minutes
•    Repeat 6 times:
•    3 minutes at target race pace x 1 minute at very easy pace
•    Run at easy effort: 5 minutes
•    Walking slowly: 3 minutes

Note: Run each three-minute interval slightly faster than the last. Start out a bit slower than your target race pace, and finish a bit faster. On race week, perform this workout with only three intervals (instead of six).

Go by feel rather than time. Women have a natural ability to connect with our own bodies — call it female intuition. In order to tap into this sense, you must avoid glancing frequently at your watch. The clock can trick you into going faster (or slower) than your body should. Try running watch-free during your next workout, while concentrating on effort level. You just might run faster than you think you can!

On race day, break the distance into three parts: mile one, mile two and the final 1.1. Think of running each section at a progressively tougher effort level. Run at a moderate effort for the first mile, so that you can hear your breathing and you feel slightly outside of your comfort zone. For the second mile, dial it up a notch — an effort that’s hard, but not all-out. Once you hit mile two, open it up and run in the red zone. This is a very hard effort that leaves you reaching for air.

When you run by effort rather than pace, you’ll be able to perform at your best, regardless of conditions. You’ll race optimally through the heat, rain, hills and snow.

Warm up thoroughly on race day. There is nothing more painful than going from zero to race pace. The shock to your body can be extreme, making for an uncomfortable and ill-paced race. A thorough warm up will ensure your body is ready to run hard. On race morning, take a warm shower to loosen muscles. At the race site, perform the following warm up 15 minutes before you report to the line:
•    Walk briskly: 3 to 5 minutes
•    Run at an easy effort: 5 minutes
•    Repeat 4 to 6 times:
•    20-second stride at race pace x 1 to 2 minutes walking

Remember to line up at the start according to your planned pace to avoid getting caught up with faster racers or stuck behind slower runners.

Be flexible. Think of race day as a road trip. You want to get to your destination as soon as possible, but the real goal is to reach the finish. You can’t control traffic, weather patterns and bathroom breaks—all you can do is run as fast as you can that day. If you run your best performance, you’ll always cross the line with a sense of joy and pride.

Girl on the Run provides real-life training tips brought to you by Jessie Sebor, an accomplished endurance athlete who practices what she preaches. Sebor uses her column to provide tips, advice and guidance for runners—no matter their experience or pace. She shares more information and training plans through her magazine WomensRunning.com and on Twitter as @JessieSebor.