Fast or slow?

In the first of a series of ruminations on how I can improve my speed, we tackle the long run question of pace.

Today, I ran about 11.5 miles – this was the route, except I sucked it up and ran the extra mile home. I did it in about 1:36, which is roughly and 8:23 pace. Now, even when taking into account that this was my longest run in a while, it was muggy, and the route is hilly as hell, this is a pretty slow pace for me. And I ran it that way on purpose, starting off relaxed and ending relaxed, albeit more tired and v. v. v. sweaty.

It wasn’t always this way. My track coach in college was of the mind that long runs should be at a comfortably hard pace. In the past, when I was in better shape, I’d do 14 or 15 miles at a 7:35 pace, which, ya know, was tiring. By the end, I’d be doing 7:10 or 7:00 miles.

With that in mind, today’s run could be considered a failure. But are distance days beneficial JUST because you do the distance?

I like this article by Greg McMillan, mostly because I follow the two strategies he suggests: steady distance and fast finish. Granted, these are for marathon training, but fitness is fitness. The first method involves running your long run at a comfortable pace. According to his calculator, for me that would by between 7:57 and 8:57. Check!

The second strategy has you run a little less than the second half of your run at marathon goal pace, the really hammer the last couple of miles. I have no idea what my marathon goal pace would be, but using the handy calculator, he seems to think I can run a 3:14 marathon (uh, okay), a 7:27 pace. For todays run, that would mean the first six miles at 8-minute pace, the next four or so at 7:27, and the last two at 7:00.

I can tell you right now that I would be not so fond of those last two.

Still, writing it out, it’s not a bad plan. But…I’m not training for a marathon. Wonder if the method works for your weekend warrior 5K-competitor. Thoughts?

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