Thursday, June 25, 2009

Some Slow Miles

There's been an interesting thread on the California Running and Racing Forum over at Runner' World the past couple of days. The topic of discussion is "What's (sic) your running week look like." The thread's author was looking for input on a "typical" training week. The part I found most interesting though was the discussion about the mix of easy versus hard miles - even for those who have been running for many years.

This has become interesting for me for a couple of reasons. First off, I am finding myself on my feet longer and longer these days. A I come up on 50 miles a week it is apparent to me that I can't push hard through all of those miles. I know that I'm supposed to follow a hard workout with an easy workout, but what constitutes easy? And doesn' t "hard" come in two forms? Pace and distance?

Second, one of my running fiends, Lori (Run Along Now) has been bit by the Ultra bug. She recently ran the San Diego 100 (that 100 miles folks). I ran into her the next week at the Magic Shoe 5K. She mentioned something that took a little while to process. She said that the "race" takes a little different tact - you focus on cutoff times. Not on a target pace, but on making sure that you are at the next Aid Station before it closes. Hmm. It took me a few days to realize what she was saying. You run slow. And indeed, as I read through more ultra/trail run reports, I can see where much of those races are done at a slow pace or a brisk walk. But - all those guys are in shape right? And Lori? She just bettered her old marathon PR by 90 minutes!

Well, all this talk of slowing down really resonated when I was reading through the thread yesterday. There it was - clear as day. Folks who are capable of 3:30 and faster marathons saying they run anywhere from 75% to 90% of their miles at easy, conversational pace. Hmm. Maybe I need to slow down and stop worrying about training pace. Run at the pace my body allows me to run. Get out there and put the time in on my feet. Get the miles in the bank. It can be all summed up with one quote in the thread, "train for racing but don't race your training."

So, it was with some renewed vigor that I hit the trails yesterday for my 5 mile recovery run. I felt good the entire distance and got my run in right at 75% of my max heart rate. Right where it was supposed to be. I'm looking forward to what my nine mile GA run has in store for me tonight!


  1. This is an interesting topic, and one I can't completely wrap my head around since I'm not a marathoner or half-marathoner, at that. I remember the "easy, conversation" pace from high school, which we applied for runs ranging from 2 to 8 miles long. I wonder about being about to hold a conversation for 8 miles. But obviously we all know that recovery, slow, or "maintenance" runs are just as important as the fast, solid, quality ones that make us feel like we're accomplishing something. Wow, I just rambled. Anyways, glad you posted this - gives us something to think about and perhaps apply more to our own training.

  2. Those are definitely some interesting things to ponder. The hard part about the long, slow runs is that it does take so much more time to get the miles in -- but you know that!

  3. Thanks for the info. I have been wondering about the effects of slow runs for some time, but could never actually figure out why they would be so good.
    Recently, I got to accept the fact that they are necessary and now I seriously enjoy doing my long runs in a very comfortable slow pace.

    Very interesting how you mention that you cannot train hard most of the time. This is so true, but I never realized this.

  4. This is exactly the post I needed to read.

    I have tried and failed to run slower-- I speed through each workout and it drives me nutz!I esspecially hate when I am out running and other runners blaze by me-- causing me to go even faster.

    I am ALWAYS burned out by the end-

    I have to keep in mind-- every run is not a speed run-- It's ok to slow down and -- I don't know-- maybe enjoy the entire run??

    Thanks for the reminder!

  5. it's taken me awhile to fully grasp the "slow down to speed up" concept but i'm finally becoming a believer. i think it helps when you start increasing the mileage and are just too tired to go any faster! some days "nice and easy" sounds and feels really good, doesn't it?

  6. Slow comes so naturally to me Glenn. ; - ) Too bad we couldn't run together so you could see my lovely 17 minute/mile pace. Honestly....we could have a lot of conversations!! Seriously....this is a great post and I learned alot from it. Thanks! Christine

  7. I think that eventually as you add mileage, the speed catches up. I have noticed that when I run easy my pace is usually around where it needs to be anyway and I am not increasing my heart rate by stressing.

  8. This is so interesting but i know that it is true. i didn't get it until I ran track this year but we always ran slower and walked between repeats and such. I would be doing no more than 10 miles a week but I could run faster than I had ever before. Its about allowing your body to recover and not get beaten up too much! Now its hard to remember that concept and slow down.