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Interpreting Running Times for Marathon Training

Part of the Marathon Training For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When you’re training for a marathon, time takes on a whole new dimension — and vocabulary. From mile splits (the time you run for each mile of a marathon) to finish times (your overall time for a race) to the speed displayed on your treadmill, marathoners are faced with all sorts of numbers. Read on to see what they mean.

Reading around the colons

When you see 4:02:27, 8:31, or :80, what does it all mean?

  • Any number with two colons is giving you hours, then minutes, then seconds. So 4:02:27 means 4 hours, 2 minutes, and 27 seconds.

  • When you see one colon, the time is in minutes and seconds. So 8:31 means 8 minutes and 31 seconds.

  • Times that are over — but close to — a minute or an hour may be converted to hours or minutes or may not. So you may see 80 seconds as :80 or as 1:20 (1 minute, 20 seconds). If you run a 10K in 65:00 (65 minutes), it may also be written as 1:05:00 (1 hour, 5 minutes).

Figuring your average time

To calculate minutes per mile when you’re running one of your measured road routes, use a calculator and do the following:

  1. Round your seconds to minutes and your hours to minutes, too.

    For example, 36:33 (36 minutes and 33 seconds) becomes 37 minutes, and 1:10:24 — that’s 1 hour, 10 minutes, and 24 seconds — becomes 70 minutes.

  2. Divide the minutes by the number of miles.

  3. Subtract the minutes, so that you’re left with just the decimal that represents the number of seconds. Then multiply that decimal by 60.

    For example, if after you divide your minutes by miles, you’re left with 9.27, subtract 9 and multiply .27 by 60 to get 16.2 and round it down to 16.

  4. Put the number of seconds back with the minutes, and you have your pace.

    Using the previous example, you end up with 9 minutes + 16 seconds = 9:16 minutes per mile

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