Why It's Important To Run SLOW

It's a common sight to see people of every ability running the roads in the evening times. Usually going faster then what they should be. Each time I drive by a runner, I look at their expression on their face, but also the tension. If this was a once off, I wouldn't be writing this. Usually I see the same person doing the same speed the next day, with the same tension and pain on their face. Your body won't like doing this and you will not improve.

Let me try clear the mud from the water.

A distance training plan has 4 key running sessions:

  1. Anaerobic (Short distance) Speed Session

  2. Tempo Run

  3. Aerobic (Long distance) Speed Session

  4. Long Run

Thats 4 days of the week which leaves 3 remaining days. You need to consider a rest day, which leaves 2 remaining days. So what do you do on those days? RUN EASY! (if its marathon training then I wouldn't suggest doing all 4 in a week. If I was doing a short distance session then I would pair that with a tempo run, and a long run. Likewise, if I was doing a long distance session then I would do a short distance session and a long run). You should aim for 2-3 key sessions during the week for marathon training. For 5-10k training you could aim for 3-4 key sessions during the week, and you long run being shorter (12ish miles)

I get asked a lot "do you always run this slow". Slow meaning 9 minute miles. It might seem painfully slow, but you need to do it. It takes discipline to run easy. Everyone can run hard and it's a mentality us Irish have perfected. Do things hard or else it's a waste of time. You need to be on your knees or else it wasn't a great session.

I will talk about elite athletes in the next part but for now, I will explain about my training.

EASY RUNS: Usually my easy runs start at 9.30 minute mile pace and will maybe get into the high 8 minutes.

TEMPO RUNS: This is also an area where people run too long and too hard. This is not a time trial. It should be controlled but a decent effort.

I work from heart rate on this. I use it so I don't go too fast and it turns into a bit slower then race pace.

Usually I go for 25-30minutes and clock about 6.10 per mile (when I was racing competitively I would have been running around 5.10-5.15 per mile for 20-25 minutes).

I will also do something like 3x3 mile with short recovery of about 90s. This is at marathon pace (6.24 per mile)

SHORT DISTANCE SESSIONS: These are usually anywhere from 200-500m in length and are run around 5min mile pace or faster. They are still controlled. Typical session would be 12-15x400m at 75-77s per 400 with a 75sec recovery. Or 16x200 (8 on flat (33s) and 8 uphill (40s) with a jog back recovery.

LONG DISTANCE SESSIONS: Usually 1k up to 2-3 mile. Because I'm marathon training now I could end up doing a session like 6x1mile (at 10k pace with 3 min rest between) or 3mile (marathon pace), 2mile (1/2 marathon pace), 1 mile (10k pace) with recoveries of 3min - 2min.

LONG RUN: The longest I will run is up to 24 miles (and only run that once). My last long run was 22 mile averaging 6.55 per mile pace. Starting off at 7.30 per mile and work down to 15sec slower then marathon pace. If I was doing a shorter long run (15-18mile) then the last few miles would be faster then marathon goal pace (6.24).

So now that I have explained about the key sessions, I want to explain the benefits of running slow. If you are running hard sessions during the week, then why would you run an "easy run" at 7min-8min mile pace. You are working the same system doing 8min mile pace compared to a 10 min mile pace. The difference is, it is less stress on your body doing 10 min mile pace.

Kenyan athletes are a prime example of running very very easy. Marathon pace for them is under 5 min mile pace. A lot of the time, you will see them running at a walking pace, gradually increasing the pace but only slightly. The goal is to recover because tomorrow they are going to go long and hard.

Sally Kipyego (Kenyan) is an Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000m is a perfect example of how to balance training. She trains with Oregon Track Club in America. The majority of her training partners there are American. They can't keep up with her on her hard days. But they run faster then her on their easy days. They find it too hard to run with her going at 9.30-10min mile pace.

Take away points from the article

  • Run slow when you need to!

  • Run hard when you need to!

  • Listen to you body!

  • A schedule isn't set in stone. Maybe it needs an extra day recovery.

Video below is a training session I recorded while working in Kenya. NOTE: THIS IS A HARD SESSION!!


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