Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Run Slow to Race Fast

Coach Matt often reminds me that overly tired legs don't have to be part of marathon training if it's done right. I completely agree. As much as I embrace the hurt of a hard workout, I also embrace easy running the rest of the time and consider it as important as hitting my splits during a track workout. It's tempting to run fast all the time, but getting injured/overtrained is a sure way to blow a race before the gun even goes off!

A lot of runners consider easy pace running to be the hardest type. I think that's likely because it feels unnatural for runners who do most of their training at moderate intensity! Many - including me at times! - end up falling into the trap of thinking the faster they run their easy days, the better. I agree that it sometimes feels tedious to run slower. But, to reign things in now means greater reward on race day. Look at it this way: 

slower pace = ability to handle greater training volume = run faster on race day

A steady diet of easy miles is how the elites train. I recently read an article about easy running that included survey results about the training habits of elite runners. The men did almost three quarters of their training at slower than marathon pace, while the ladies did more than two thirds of their training at slower paces. 

One of my favorite elite runners/bloggers, Camille Herron, says it best. Camille is a 2:37 marathoner and starts her easy days at 8:50-9:10 pace, eventually moving down to average 8:30-8:50 pace with no miles faster than 8:00 pace. Reading about Camille's running and pacing has definitely made me think differently about my own running. If Camille averages 8:30-8:50 pace during her easy runs, I can run a bit slower and still meet my goals. After all, it doesn't matter how fast you run during training if you can't run fast on race day!

Hold back during training and let it rip on race day!

To make sure I'm truly running easy, here are a few strategies that work for me:

  • Leave my watch at home. I plan my route in advance to make sure I'm getting the right number of miles and then run by feel. 
  • Wear heavier training shoes. This one is purely psychological. I associate my heavier Brooks Defyance shoes will easy running.  
  • Hum or sing to myself. Okay, I know this is weird. But it's pretty hard to hum or sing when running hard. Just keep an eye out for other people. It's best to do this one when alone on the path. 
  • Run on the grass. I'm usually more careful about footing when running on the grass, which means slower running. Voila - instant easy run! 

 
Run on the grass when possible! 

My questions for you:
  • What are your thoughts on easy running - Love it or hate it? Do you do enough of it?
  • What are your strategies to keep your pace slow on easy running days?
  • If you're not into easy running, what do you dislike about it?

Slow or fast, I hope everyone has a fantastic week of running :)

- ST

20 comments:

  1. This is such great advice. I just shared it on our local running Facebook group. So many of the ladies on there try to run for their best time EVERY run. It scares me.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Jan! That sounds so familiar to me - I know some runners who run the same course every time and each time try to PR while training. Not smart.

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  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I love easy running. Because it's easy and I feel like I can run forever. :-) I was under the impression that I should always be running hard when I first started. I think it is the biggest beginner mistake. It is not really intuitive that running slower is better. :-) Running on hilly terrain or trail running effectively slows me down. Initially I had to set my Garmin to beep at me if my heart rate got too high, until I got into the practice of running at the proper pace. Now I can run by feel.

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    1. I think running by feel is almost always best. Our bodies know what pace is right for the day! And I was the same when I first started running - I would try to run a mile as fast as I could every time, which, of course, resulted in an injury :)

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  4. Ever since my injury earlier this year I forced myself to go out easier because I used to have a very bad habit of going out at max intensity all the time. It was a really difficult adjustment, but now I really enjoy those relaxed runs and look forward to them! (I have one tomorrow morning YAY!) This whole post is such great advice...I've been trying to think of how I'm going to tackle my next marathon and it's cool to hear that the elite runners stick to a slower pace while they train!

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    1. Thanks Salt :) I agree, I love hearing how elites train, especially when I find out they run at slower paces just like the rest of us. Slow it down to speed it up!

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  5. I had to laugh at the humming/singing comment. I find myself jammin' to my tunes often - only to get awkward stares when I meet someone else who must thoroughly think I'm crazy as we pass! Really great post of something that is soooo easy to forget! Thanks, Sun!

    I started running by feel my last training cycle and I was amazed at how much faster I could actually run on my hard workouts. Running by feel is definitely my go-to, although I usually take my Garmin and ignore it so I can see my progress (easier said than done, but I've trained myself to not look).

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    1. You have greater self control than me :) I have to leave my watch at home or else I get too caught up in my splits and pacing.

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  6. I love easy runs but have a habit of getting a little excited at the start which makes me run them way too fast sometimes. To maintain some kind of order so I don't get completely out of control in the pace department I like to either overdress a little (I definitely slow down as I get warmer on runs) or I do what I call the "breathe through your nose test" where if I can't maintain that pace comfortably while only breathing through my nose for a while I'm probably going too fast. Not sure that's based on any kind of science or logic but it works for me!

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    1. I love both of those tips! I've also read that breathing rate for an easy run should be four counts in, four counts out.

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  7. I just read that article the other day too :). I also started to smile while I read this because there's a high school boy that I've finished before in both races and he just so happens to also run in the same area as me and he speeds passed me on my easy days all the time. I used to constantly obsess about my pace every single run and now sometimes I run just by feel and some days I intentionally slow it down. I never have to worry about my first couple of miles being too fast though because my body takes a while to wake up in the mornings haha.

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    1. Ha, I am the same way! I sometimes joke that it takes me a good four miles to warmup during a long run. I guess this means we are distance runners :)

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  8. I love this! I wish everyone believed this -- a lot of the people I run with try to run fast everyday so on my easy days I end up running solo! I do like the low pressure of easy running days too!

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    1. I'm in the same boat - I usually end up running solo, too, so I can stick with my easy pace and not be tempted to run too fast!

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  9. I agree - it is so hard to run slow. You do think that when you are running faster, you are getting better... but running slow has been the only way I've been able to run with my back injury. Running some is better than not running at all, right? Maybe this will be a good lesson for me to take things easy, have patience and who knows... maybe I can still reach my 5k speed goals!

    Thanks for the glass half full optimism today :D

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    1. I think there's still hope for reaching your goals, Alicia! Keep it up with the easy running and when your back is ready you can add in speedwork. But until then, you'll be building a great base!

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  10. I learned the importance of easy running during my last marathon cycle. I used Hansons Marathon Method and easy running was a huge part of it. It's also important to get them in because you're running on tired legs, so you start getting used to that fatigued feeling. Though running too fast on easy days will just lead to injury or burnout like you said! Great idea about running without a watch adn in the grass. I need to run "naked" more often.

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    1. I read that book awhile back and really enjoyed learning about the plan. I agree that it's super important to learn how to run on tired legs - makes miles 20-26.2 seem a little less rough!

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