Using VDOT Numbers to Inform Your Running

I recently mentioned VDOT scores to my running friend Cait.  We were discussing her goals for improving her 5K performance.  I know that she can cut several minutes off of her 5K PR by doing the kind of speed work I have been blogging about.  Of course, cutting several minutes will take a couple of years, but through hard work & wise resting she can definitely accomplish this.

But what is a VDOT and why should a runner care?  It is a measurement created by Dr. Jack Daniels to track the progress of the runners that he has coached over the years.  Daniels goes into great details in his book, the Daniels Running Formula. If you want all of the information straight from the source, I recommend buying the book.  If you just want a quick summary, keep reading here.  :)

What is a VDOT?

Without going into the detailed scientific stuff, your VDOT number represented the amount of oxygen you consume during a minute of running.   If you have the money, you can go to a lab and get your VDOT tested exactly.   Thankfully, your VDOT can be estimated fairly accurately by your recent race performances.

How is VDOT useful to the typical runner?

1)  Tracking Progress over Various Distances.   It is a system that allows you to track your overall running performance and progress in getting faster.  It is especially useful for runners that run a variety of distances.

2)  Determining Productive Training Paces.  Over the years, Daniels has perfected a system that determines paces for various types of training runs that are fast enough to make progress but slow enough to be safe.

Personally, I have been using VDOT calculations for a little less than a year.  I have found that the numbers to be right on target.

Below is a brief VDOT chart.  To use it, look up a recent performance.  Let’s say that you have recently run a half marathon in 2:14:03.  Look at the half marathon column and find the time closest to 2:14:03.  The closest number is 2:13:49.  Looking across that row of numbers tells us a few details.  First, a 2:14:03 translates roughly to a VDOT of 32.  On the same row are equivalent performances at 5K, 10K, and marathon distances.  This is a rough estimate of what you may have been able to do on that day if the race was those distances.

Also on the same line are the suggested paces for your training runs.  These paces should be reasonable & achievable for you at this stage.  Even if you can go faster, it may not be a good idea.  This is fast enough to make progress, but slow enough to reduce the chance of injury.

5K

10K

Half-Marathon

Marathon

VDOT

Easy Pace (Per Mile)

Tempo Pace (PM)

Interval Pace (400 M)

30:40

63:46

2:21:04

4:49:17

30

12:40

10:18

2:22

29:05

60:26

2:13:49

4:34:58

32

12:04

9:47

2:14

27:39

57:26

2:07:16

4:22:03

34

11:32

9:20

2:08

26:22

54:44

2:01:19

4:10:19

36

11:02

8:55

2:02

25:12

52:17

1:55:55

3:59:35

38

10:35

8:33

1:56

24:08

50:03

1:50:59

3:49:45

40

10:11

8:12

1:52

23:09

48:01

1:46:27

3:40:43

42

9:48

7:52

1:48

22:15

46:09

1:42:17

3:32:23

44

9:27

7:33

1:44

21:25

44:25

1:38:27

3:24:39

46

9:07

7:17

1:40

20:39

42:50

1:34:53

3:17:29

48

8:49

7:02

1:36

19:57

41:21

1:31:35

3:10:49

50

8:32

6:51

1:33

19:17

39:59

1:28:31

3:04:36

52

8:16

6:38

1:31

18:40

38:42

1:25:40

2:58:47

54

8:01

6:26

1:28

18:05

37:31

1:23:00

2:53:20

56

7:48

6:15

1:26

17:33

36:24

1:20:30

2:48:14

58

7:34

6:04

1:23

17:03

35:22

1:18:09

2:43:25

60

7:22

5:54

1:21

16:34

34:23

1:15:57

2:38:54

62

7:11

5:45

1:19

16:07

33:28

1:13:53

2:34:38

64

7:00

5:36

1:17

15:42

32:35

1:11:56

2:30:36

66

6:49

5:28

1:15

15:18

31:46

1:10:05

2:26:47

68

6:39

5:20

1:13

14:55

31:00

1:08:21

2:23:10

70

6:30

5:13

1:11

A couple more tips:

  • There are VDOT calculators available on various web sites with more detailed information.   I always find it best to use more than one to double-check the numbers, but that’s just me.
  • NEVER look up your goal time to estimate training paces.  Only use recent race performances.  Using your goal time can lead to training too fast and being injured!

If you are serious about making progress and setting new PRs, I suggest that you being using VDOT numbers & corresponding paces.  If you do it right, you can make consistent progress!

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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