Training pace

My recent running achievements have been pretty well documented in this blog (that’s right, I’m talking about those 10K times again). Normally only have good things to say about them, but a fortnight ago I encountered a less favourable consequence of my new found speed: I can’t run slowly. I know, I know… There’s just no making me happy, right? Not quite. It’s not simply that I can’t run slowly – I’ve lost my pace.

A fortnight ago after a few days of early morning dashes around the park (some more structured than others) I decided to ‘go for a jog’. I set off with every intention of running at a steady pace, but after 7 miles at 8:20min/mile I was shattered. I’d run far too fast for a longer run, but I just couldn’t settle into a steady pace. Heck, I couldn’t even get a feel for what a steady pace would be.

I used to be able to estimate with pretty good accuracy a 9min/mile (my steady pace), an 8:45min/mile (my threshold pace), an 8:30min/mile (my tempo pace), and a 10:30min/mile (my easy pace). But now that my overall pace has increased, my inner GPS is out of sync, and I’m running at 8:00min/mile and flagging 5 miles in.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned during my recent training was to run my sessions at an appropriate pace. If you run a threshold session too fast your body will be too busy fighting fatigue to benefit your fitness. Similarly, if you run a tempo session too slow you risk accumulating junk miles. On the other hand though, if you run your longer runs too fast you just tire yourself out and risk injury. Learning how different paces felt took time and is based on my perceived exertion when running, i.e. how tired out I feel. Obviously as I get faster these paces should increase relatively, but I still need to be quite conscious of practising them as my current tendency is to run around the park like a small child and enjoy my new found speed (if only for a few miles…).

I have used the training pace calculator on the Runners’ World website to estimate my new paces. Armed with these figures and a running app on my iphone I will hopefully be able to find my pace again.

I put it to the test on the weekend and set off on my first ‘long run’ in a couple of months. An old pal from my running club had emailed and asked for a run/catch up, and as I have really been missing my running friends I jumped at the offer. We planned a nice Sunday morning jog beginning and ending in Finsbury Park, heading out along the Parkland Walk (a beautiful conservation sight along disused railway lines that is maintained by volunteers), from Highgate to Hampstead Heath, a loop of the Heath through mud and avoiding downhill slopes, back to Archway and Hornsey, before looping back up to Harringay. A glorious 11 miles through 3 London boroughs, gossipping for the first 9 miles before things began to ache too much. I ran as slowly as felt comfortable – just how a long run should be – and was thrilled to discover that we managed a nice 9:40min/mile, exactly what Runners’ World recommended. My inner GPS is retuning itself well. Now to nail that tempo pace…

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