“Running slow to run faster” this sounds such an oxymoron. Though one of the most common mistakes by amateur runners is they try to run too fast, too often. And often end up getting injured.
For long distance running, endurance is a bigger factor than speed. This fact is important not just on the actual race day, but all the practice training. Let us say your target pace is 4” per km, or 5” per km for a 10km race. It is very easy to run faster than these target paces for few minutes, but the challenge in the 10km race will be to able to persist that pace for the whole distance to get your desired timing. This is where endurance training runs come in play. The slower runs, builds the endurance to persist longer.
The book “80/20 running” by Matt Fitzgerald talks through a lot of examples where competitive athletes over several decades have come to realize why slow runs are more important than faster runs. And why the slow runs should constitute minimum 80% of the total time spent running. This only not makes you a stronger runner, but you enjoy the runs more. During these slow runs, enjoy every step, without worrying about your pace.
How to control the running intensity?
We humans are designed to optimize and if our training run goal is 10km, we tend to find ways to finish earlier. This tendency invariably makes the run to be above easy level and majorly in moderate intensity. The moderate intensity runs are the primary reasons where amateur runners peak faster. They tend to plateau to a pace after few years of improvement. It is very critical to find your easy intensity pace and run within it to get the best out of the easy runs. Here’s what i suggest:
- Put your run tracker app/watch screen to show your heart rate, rather than speed. And monitor it during the runs to keep it in zone 2. And if you don’t see the speed, distance, you will feel less tempted to run faster.
- Maintain a pace where your brain says “I can maintain this pace forever” or “I am holding myself back”.
- Target to have a time on the feet as measurement rather than distance.
- In terms of pace, the easy runs are 20-30% slower than your recent race pace. If your race pace is 5′, run at 5’40” to 6′ during your easy runs.
A combination of pace, heart rate and perceived effort gives you a better idea of your runs intensity. Listen to your body, and when you feel flat few days, just drop your pace by few notches and ease into the run.