11 Dec 2023

Benefits of using rolling pace on a sports watch

Pacing yourself during a running race can be quite difficult. I've found that adding rolling pace to your sports watch helps a lot with consistency, since the default current pace fluctuates too much.

Many road runners pace themselves with the help of a sports watch, like a Garmin, Coros, Suunto, Polar, or Apple Watch. These watches show your movement by default not as speed (km/h) but as pace (h/km). So while you are running you’ll see something along the lines of 5:32 on you watch, which means that at your current speed you would run 1 kilometer in 5 minutes and 32 seconds.


The problem is: current pace fluctuates a lot as you’re never running at a perfectly flat pace and small measuring errors are introduced by imperfect GPS signal or sharp turns in the road.

How can we fix this?

The solution to this is having another field called rolling pace. Where current pace only looks at the last few meters, rolling pace will take a bigger sample, such as 100 meters or 30 seconds. Every meter or second that passes, the rolling pace will recalculate and shift it’s measuring window by that amount. This way, most small fluctuations and measuring errors will be smoothed out.

Comparison between the measuring windows of current pace and rolling pace. In the real world the measuring windows of the current pace will also slightly overlap, so the only real difference is the length of the windows.

Pros and Cons

Pros of rolling pace

  • The pace shown matches the real pace more accurately

  • You won’t need to glance as often as there will be no fluctuations

  • It helped a lot with dialling in my pace during my last marathon

Cons of rolling pace

  • The pace shown lacks behind a little bit, so if you speed up or slow down it takes a longer time for rolling pace to catch up

  • It won’t account for any systematic error in your GPS measurements, like a zigzagging line when you’re running straight

Why not use average lap pace?

Some people have found an alternative to current pace fluctuations by looking at the average pace of the current lap. This can be useful when you enable the watch to automatically start a new lap on each kilometer. I personally don’t like this solution, as you will have higher fluctuations at the start of each lap and less responsiveness to pace changes near the end of the lap.

How do I get this on my watch?

Some watch brands might have this data field baked in, but my Garmin Fenix 5+ didn’t have it. For Garmin you can download a data field called Rolling Average Pace by simonletts, which you can install through the Garmin ConnectIQ app on your phone.

Good luck nailing the perfect pace at your next race!