At the East Nasty Wednesday run a few weeks ago, I got to talking to a couple girls before the run. One of them had also ran the Country Music Half and asked what my time was. I assumed they were faster than me (as most people are) and told her my time, quickly followed by “which was a good time for me and faster than my goal time.” She said that she ran a 2:26, just a minute faster, so we must be around the same level! And then it came time for the run to start and she took off with the 9:30 min/mi pace group. Um, nope. Not the same level.
I don’t know what her goals are for her mid-week runs, but, except for my weekly speed work and the occasional goal pace run, my runs should all be done at easy pace. But the truth is most runners probably run too fast most of the time (myself included). If that works for them, great, but it’s the main reason overuse injuries happen, and we all know that I am way too injury prone to be running faster than I need to be.
I know what you are thinking. “But if you want to be faster, you have to run faster, right?” And that is true, to some extent. That’s why speed workouts exist. But just increasing mileage will also help you perform better by having your muscles adapt and you can do this with less chance of injury if you run slow. There’s a great post over on Runblogger about this topic.
The easiest way to figure out your easy pace is to plug a recent race time into a pacing calculator. I’ve mentioned the McMillan calculator before. Using my half marathon time, it says my easy runs should be between 11:35 and 12:16 min/mi, long runs should be between 11:37 and 12:45 min/mi, and recovery jogs should be between 12:27 and 13:23 min/mi. The Jack Daniels’ (not the whiskey) calculator says easy runs should be between 12:46 and 13:31 min/mi (the site says this includes recovery and long runs) and marathon pace runs (which I guess if you aren’t training for a marathon is also a pretty easy pace) should be 11:31 min/mi. Thus, we can conclude that the majority of my runs should be between 11:30 and 13:30 right now.
So let’s see how I’m doing.
Here are the last 20 training runs I did before the half marathon (minus the Richland Creek race). The two runs highlighted in green don’t count because they were speed workouts (although one of them didn’t go well and ended up in easy run pace territory anyway).
Out of the 18 other runs, 12 of them were run at 11:30 pace or slower. That’s not too shabby. Most of the ones that were ran faster were done in my taper leading up to the race where I wasn’t doing any super hard workouts anyway and running less distance per week. Out of the other two, one was a goal pace run (aiming between 11:15 and 11:45 but went a little fast) and one was truly ran too fast. I think that’s overall a pacing success! And the result? I never got injured the entire training cycle AND ran faster than my goal!
Compare that to a year ago when I still hadn’t gotten the hang of running different paces and ended up getting injured. I did the same thing last September/October. I ran a ~33 min 5k distance in training but couldn’t match it in my races and then got injured. Classic overtraining.
The main problem as I start this next training cycle? If I want to continue running with the East Nasty group on Wednesdays, I’m typically going to be running those miles faster than easy pace. (See that 10:34 for East Nasty in the chart above? That was a six mile run!) They only go up to 10 min/mi pace groups. There’s another group, the Lasty Nasties, that leave fifteen minutes early and most of them do run/walk intervals. I’ve thought about running with them to keep my pacing easy, since I’m prone to running too fast on Wednesdays due to this.
Do you vary your paces in training?