As runners we are so obsessed with fast, but maybe that’s not where we need to be putting our energy. We all want to run faster, but the truth of it is we are missing the whole point. New runners are always telling me they want to run longer distances, but they are asking me how to run faster. The truth is that the two things are a contradiction.
I want to be a faster runner just like the next person, but that’s not what distance running is all about. When I started training for my first half marathon in 2012 I trained at a 14 minute mile pace. My half marathon pace is now much faster, but at the time that was the only pace I could maintain for distances over 10 miles. It’s easy to get concerned with pace, but the more important thing to focus on is endurance.
Endurance is one of the most important characteristics that a distance runner can have. Whether you are interested in 10K or ultra marathons, you have to have endurance to complete the race in one piece. We can all get caught up with pace and running faster, but if we aren’t pacing correctly we will burn out at the beginning, hit a huge wall or bonk then struggle to finish the race without walking or slowing down drastically.
As a new runner one of the most important areas to focus on is time spent running over mileage. When you start training for a new race distance or are just trying to run farther focus on the length of time you can run without stopping instead of the miles. For example, instead of trying to run 5 miles right out of the gate if the longest you have ever run is 3 miles readjust your goal to running for 30 or 45 minutes without stopping. This will boost your confidence and help you adjust to running for longer periods of time. If you aren’t focusing on the miles yet then it gives you the ability to have a better control on your pace. You can put all your efforts into running slow enough to keep moving for a length of time instead of focusing on pace and mileage.
Once you have a running routine and can run for 60 minutes without stopping then you can start to think about running based on mileage increments. Following the 10 percent rule is crucial to staying injury free and still seeing improvement. You will soon find that each mileage increment is a little bit different. Runs that are 5-7 miles feel very different than runs that are 7-9 miles even though there doesn’t appear to be a big difference. By working on running for 60 minutes at a shot then moving to measuring your runs on mileage it becomes easier to increase your mileage.
After your body adjusts to running regularly then you can think about running faster. But here’s the dirty truth that no one wants to talk about…running can be a slow sport for improvement. Most runners spend years working hard nearly every day to see improvements in their pace times. It will take some time for your body to get used to running regularly and your muscles will be able to handle more and more stress over time. Teaching yourself to run long distances is a marathon and not a sprint. The goal isn’t to hurry up and get your run over with the goal is to train your body to run farther so you can run your target distance.
When the Mr. first started training for the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon months ago he would always go out too fast then burn out and be bummed he had to walk to finish his run. He would feel defeated and less confident going into his next run. He quickly realized that he had to pull back and ease into everything instead of trying to get it over with.
Slow is fast and progress takes time. Everything takes time so instead of getting down on yourself about how long it takes you to finish a certain distance focus on how far you have came. It’s more important to focus on the accumulation instead of worrying about your daily runs.
Next week I will uncomplicate speedwork drills and talk about how to run faster.
Are you obsessed with fast?