I'm reading a novel written at the beginning of the XX century and I've come across this sentence:

Half paralysed, over head and ears in debt, having gone the pace all his life--or so they said!--till at last that mine in Ecuador had done for him--before the secretary's day, of course, but he had heard of it.

From the context, I'm guessing "go the pace" means something like "having a really good time", "being successful" or "conquering your goals", but I haven't found the expression in any dictionary. Could anyone help me understand this?

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    If you're trying to learn English, outdated texts like yours probably aren't helpful (the once-common usage "head over ears in debt", for example, has effectively vanished since it was written there). The usage "to go the pace" still exists today as "to stay / stand the pace", meaning to keep up [with other "competitors"]. Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 11:31
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    (Presumably in context that means he'd continually borrowed money in order to maintain the extravagant lifestyle of his wealthier friends.) Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 11:33

1 Answer 1


There is a similar expression, "go the distance", which means to manage to continue until the end of a competition, although it is also used outside of sporting contexts. It is a fairly common idiom, and "the distance" is whatever is required in the context.

"Pace" is synonymous with 'speed', how fast something is moving, but particularly in relation to other things. For example, runners in a race may try to 'keep pace' with one another, that is to keep at a similar speed. It seems logical (and fits your context) that "go the pace" means to manage to continue at the required pace.

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