SmartCoach Pacing

Q&As with Amby Burfoot

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05/10/2007 at 11:47
Thanks Sean G

Seems that there are differing opinions on this, see toddytyke, I think what you have said is more realistic, but as the rest of the paces are per mile you would think toddytykes logic is correct. I think I'll plumb for 800 mtre 4:19 pace and see how that works out.

Thanks all
05/10/2007 at 13:08


It is misleading that when is says (for example) 3mi @ 8.25 it does mean 3 miles at 8.25 mins per mile but when the distance is in metres (for example) 800m @ 4:19 you run 800 metre in 4.19 pace NOT 800 metres at 4.19 mins per mile pace.

Running 4.19 mins per mile would make you at Elite athlete.


05/10/2007 at 13:18
Definitely not elite at anything, let alone running, but thanks again for making it clear.
06/10/2007 at 17:06
I have just been looking to set my schedule with this smartcoach for the winter, I have seen you mention Macmillan. What is this  and is there a website?
06/10/2007 at 18:49

From a recent race result it will give you indicators as to your perfromance over different distances (provding the correct training is done).

It also calculates your long slow run, tempo, LT paces etc.

McMillan Pace Calculator

06/10/2007 at 22:23

Thanks for the link!

 I have been an intermittent runner for maybe 30years but hadn't run for nearly 18months when on August Bank Holiday I succumbed to entering a 10K race 3 weeks later under peer pressure. "What the hell!", I thought - if nothing else it will motivate me to get back into running.

I started out running 2mi and built up over the 3 weeks, running a couple of 10K early the week before in 53:15 which quite suprised me. I did 54:10 on the day but there was quite a strong headwind and I had trained on the flat and the course was undulating rather than hilly but i suffered on those climbs.

I came across RW and the Smartcoach and am nearly two weeks onto a program but I am having my doubts. I think the program seems weak but maybe I just don't understand it.

That was, until I soaked up the McMillan site! What a fantastic resource! I now fully understand my plan and the pace seems a lot more accurate. Thanks for the posts and unwittingly helping out a newbie.


08/10/2007 at 11:42

ShaunV, just reading all the background info on smartcoach and concur with Sean G about the speedwork.  It gives you a distance, a number of repeats and the time to complete that distance......and not a per minute mile pace as I said earlier.

Sorry for any confusion.

Daniel Benson.    pirate
08/10/2007 at 14:24
Hey guys,

Sorry to drop in but I just thought it was worth pointing you towards our calculators. We have a training pace calculator, race time predictor and pace band for you print off.

With regards to SmartCoach, I know some of you have some questions regarding the background and science behind the tool. We'll, we hoping to get one of the creators online in the near future, to help with your problems and answer some questions.  Keep your eyes peeled to the thread for an update.


Daniel RW
08/10/2007 at 14:56
Thanks Daniel, that would be quite interesting if you can get them online, always worth seeing thier answers to their logic
13/10/2007 at 17:40

Interesting reading, I had a look at Macmillan. I'd never heard of it before so thanks...

 I understand most of the numbers but what are cruise intervals and when should I be using them in training?

Currently using Smart coach to train for a 10 miler with a little bit of flex to fit in a couple of 10K races I have coming up and make it work for me and also try to get in a longer run before the 10 miler.

14/10/2007 at 23:19

As someone who likes hills & hilly racing, does anyone have suggestions for supplementing / swapping elements of the training schedule for some dedicated hill-training sessions (i.e. every third easy-run or every other speedwork)?

I live somewhere fairly flat so I usually make a special trip to get to somewhere a bit hilly hence not so easy to sneak some in!

(I'm currently considering Marathon - Moderate level - 26-30miles per wk for the Three Forts Marathon next May)


Daniel Benson.    pirate
16/10/2007 at 15:28

If you build it he will come… (well something like that).

I’m happy to announce that one of SmartCoach’s creators, Amby Burfoot, will being dropping into the forums this Thursday at 2pm (for one hour only) to answer your SmartCoach training questions. To give you a sense of Amby’s background, he has an incredibly impressive running CV - from winning the Boston Marathon in 1968 to becoming the Executive Editor of RW in the US. He’s done it all.

So whether you want to know more about the science behind the tool or how to make the most of it’s power, Amby will try his utmost to lend a helping hand.

It might be a good idea if you could try and post your questions before Thursday so that Amby can hit the ground running rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once.


Daniel RW

16/10/2007 at 18:42

Hi everyone: This is Amby Burfoot from Runner's World in the U.S. I helped develop the SmartCoach tool, and will be back here Thursday at 2 pm to have a "forum discussion" with you.

For now, this is just a test.

See you Thursday at 2 pm. 

17/10/2007 at 16:25
Dear Smart-coach.

I am aiming to cut my next half-marathon run time by 25% (2hrs down to 1hr 40mins)... are the schedules tailored for this? I've incorporated some circuit training into my current schedule which I hope will help cut my speed time, and also give me a general training mix.

Many Thanks,

18/10/2007 at 09:34

Hi Amby,

I'm not able to be online at 2pm as it will be 2am here in New Zealand and I'll very definitely be asleep.  But if you get a chance I'd be interested in learning about some of the parameters that Smartcoach uses - eg does it limit long run as a % of total weekly miles, does it limit weekly mileage increase.  also the easy and tempo paces improve with each 4 week cycle but how do you decide by how much?

finally -  the schedule smartcoach has turned out for a half marathon (25-30 miles a week, very hard) has a longest run of 13 miles.  do you think that is enough?  i guess i expected to run overdistance a few times before race day.

Thanks in advance for coming online to answer our questions


18/10/2007 at 13:34

Agree about overdistance runs, M.

More generally, a lot must depend on what sort of training you have been doing until now. Smartcoach does ask about mileage but not how long your long run is, if you're used to speedwork, and so on.

As others have mentioned, I'd have thought age, and therefore age grading for the recent race time, was important to show if you're pushing the envelope or just toddling along.

Another useful feature would be asking you for a target time for your target race.

Look forward to reading Amby's comments. 

18/10/2007 at 13:57

Hi everyone. Amby Burfoot here. I'd like to start with a brief comment on coaching in general. The best coach is a veteran one who is with you, observing and discussing your workouts. Few of us have that luxury. And a coach like this might reasonably expect to be paid for the service.

SmartCoach is the best, free alternative that you can find on the Web. It combines a certain about of training/physiology "science" with the "collective" wisdom of all the runners who have pursuing the sport for the last 40 years that I've been a participant, observer and writer. SmartCoach is quick, powerful, and surprisingly subtle-sophisticated in many ways.

But always remember: It's just software. It can't discuss your training with you. It's always a good idea to discuss your training with others, maybe lots of others. And Forums like this one are a good place to do it.

18/10/2007 at 13:58
I came across race pacer on RW. I put my distance down into times i need to hit each mile. so i guess if i keep up with some sprint training i should manage this. i just wasn't sure how the schedule affected your speed.


18/10/2007 at 14:00
Responding to Tanya... Tanya, I'm not sure your goal is very realistic. It could be. But only if you did little training for your first half, and if you have lots of talent. SmartCoach would never claim to enable you to make that kind of gain. SC is programmed to be conservative, help you improve, but very importantly to keep you from overdoing it and getting injured. SC believes in gradual, successive improvements. A good goal, still challenging in fact, would be a 5 percent improvement.
18/10/2007 at 14:02

Hi Amby

I was wondering if you had seen the new book by Matt Fitzgerald "Brain Training for Runners"?  He suggests using Proprioceptive Cues as you run to improve your stride.  Have you any experience of this idea or used it yourself? 

One weakness in the book is that he does not give examples of people who have improved as a result of using his ideas.  So I was wondering if you know of anyone who has tried any of them, and can report on any improvements.

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