How to test your run form in the off-season

How to use parkruns to test form and accurately guide pacing in weekly sessions

Credit: James Mitchell

Before starting any journey, you need to know where you are – and training is no different. It’s crucial to know where your fitness is right now so you can map out training over the coming months. Too many athletes avoid testing ‘until they feel fit’, but this mentality will leave you guessing what training will work best for you.

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All you need is an easily accessible, affordable, regular, standardised measurement – handily, your local parkrun provides all these things… plus people to run with.

Building a parkrun time trial into your training every 4-8 weeks will allow you to calculate an accurate race/threshold pace or heart rate, which you can then use to ensure all your training sessions are at the right intensity. 

It’s important to control as many of the variables as you can, so make sure you change as little as possible from test to test. Most people also skip a good warm-up, so use the structure here and keep it the same every time



A GPS watch and HR reading will give you all the data you need. Use these readings to set paces for your future sessions.

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Testing is tough, so help support your muscles with compression wear. These garments will reduce injury risk and help recovery.


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10min easy jog

Include some skipping and side steps

5min drills

Over 15-20m as: 3 x high-knees.
Start with a slow high-knee walk, then progress to a faster march by rep 3. Keep tension in the glute of the supporting leg; 3 x heel flicks. Kick heels up towards your glutes, getting faster by rep 3. Stay relaxed; 5 x acceleration runs at faster than race pace over 80-100m, walk back recovery

Aim to get to the start line with 3-5mins to relax before the start. Keep moving while waiting.

Main Set

5km parkrun

Aim to start out a little easier than you think you can manage and build effort as you go, putting it all out there in
the final kilometre


10mins easy walk/jog

When home, a foam roller can help remove muscle tension

Adapt for beginners

If you’re new to running then you don’t need to run the whole way, just take your time. Alternatively, run/walk the whole way. It’s all about what you can do, not anyone else.

Adapt for Ironman

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Replace the warm-up with a standardised bike session that finishes with some race-paced work. You could even set your turbo up near the start line, jump off just before the gun and run!