The slow run


After writing the last post about slow running, I put that mantra to the real test Saturday during the long group run.

The goal was to run 18 miles.  I decided to do that with a slower marathon race pace group than those who I typically start running with –  a group that’s about 45 second slower per mile average.

By mid-point of the run on a relatively flat course I felt great, and we were running almost a full minute slower than what I would like to run marathon day, which was understandable since the first half of our run was the more hilly part.

A bit of the competitiveness I alluded to earlier crept in at a turnaround as I watched a lot of elite runners pass me, and a few regular running partners who were pushing themselves heading back.

Whereas a few of the pack I ran with were able to reign me in speed-wise earlier in the run, they finally let me go at mile 9. I picked up speed, but not so much so that I felt short of breath or my leg muscles hurt. I just pushed it, incrementally, until by the last mile or so I was running about a minute to a minute and thirty seconds faster minute per mile average than when I started, and about 20 to 30 seconds faster than what I believe is my reasonable goal pace.

And by mile 18 I felt I could still keep going. Hours later and the next day there was no soreness either. From mid-point to end I dropped about 36 seconds off of my overall average pace for the run, but still about 28 seconds slower than my race pace goal.

I think it was the lack of sore muscles that started messing with me later. I mean I know Long Slow Distance runs are supposed to be good for you, but am I running too slow if I’m not hurting at all by the end?

I looked up articles on slow running and found this one from Active.com called “The Myth of Long Slow Distance.” The key, says the author, is frequency and repeatability, and that “easy” (or slow) is about heart rate measurements and consistent paces day-in-day-out that somehow still challenge a runner. It sounds like a razor’s edge to me.

He’s pretty technical too, writing about monitoring his heart rate and lactic thresholds. I wear a GPS but my heart rate monitor never worked. And I have no idea how to measure the lactate threshold.

Basically, I’m still new to running. This is only training for my second marathon. I want to keep the slow run, zen mentality in my head. I don’t want to push myself to the point of injury, or pre-race burnout either, but I don’t want to miss maximizing my training for the big race day either. I still want to meet my potential and do the best I can.

So, this week I may play with pacing again. My friend and I have a 7 to 8 mile hill run planned tomorrow. We’ll see how I do, and how I feel during that and possibly retool from there.

Or, an irrational part of my brain thinks, someone could just draw out the ideal run schedule, and pacing, that works specifically for me.  I have a sneaking suspicion that “ideal” can only be determined through my experience, and mistakes though.