“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.
After almost 14 months of consistent running. And in the previous 3 months had tried the sub 50 for couple of times and always used to hover around 53-54”. In those failed attempts I realized my mistake was trying to do a pace of 5′-5’10” for first 6-7km and push at the end for wrapping at 50. But to do a sub 50, I needed to comfortably do sub 5 km for 3-4km at a stretch and that is what I was targeting in those weeks before the run.
On 15th August, 2019, a run organized by Decathlon, I along with my close buddies registered at the last minute and went for the run. At the starting point, I saw there were only 12-15 runners in the 10K category. And I counted I had good opportunity to do a podium finish.
As the race began we had no clue of the route, and as per the instructions at the starting point, we had to reach the 5km mark, there will be a volunteer who will note our BIB number and we return back to finish the 10km run. After the first 2km I was leading the pack, though i was focusing on maintaining a pace that would allow me to do sub 50, finish first was another added incentive. At around 2.75km mark, I saw the volunteer, he shouted/gave a sign to take a U-turn. I understood they had goofed up. But then I thought may be they will re-route somewhere to make a 10km distance. I kept on pushing a pace of around 4’50” and reached the starting point in 24’30” and a total of 5.5km. When they realized I was suppose to run 10km, the volunteers asked me to do another loop. I was like “WHAT?” But there was not time to argue. I knew I was leading the 10km still, so doing another loop won’t hurt.
Second lap felt difficult but I managed to wrap it at 52”. My GPS showed almost 11km for a 10km race. I had done the 10k in sub fifty, and probably in 47” and the 11km in 52”. Slightly controversial for a first time sub-50 10km. Nevertheless, It didn’t matter, I was ecstatic to finish first in a race. In the official certificate they acknowledged it and noted my timing for 10k as 48’15”.
I followed it up in the next bigger race to finish 10k in 49 again after two weeks. Though it was a 21.1km race. So officially(as part of an HM) it happened on 25th Aug, but actually on 15th August.
In this age where information is democratized with Internet, everyone knows what needs to be done, if they don’t know they have all the information at their finger tips to find what is the right thing to do. But, few Do.
So, while I am talking about running this actually applies to any domain in life. If you just do simple things that needs to be done, you are already ahead of the crowd.
Running we all know have tremendous health benefits. I will skip talking the health benefits as it’s readily available information. I will talk about the indirect benefits of running.
Fashion: You don’t have to buy expensive clothing’s to look great. Your face shines, and your body posture makes you look apart from the non-running crowd. The difference is easily distinguishable.
Daddy-cool(Mommy-cool): You can continue to be the daddy cool when your kids get in their teens. You can be the young daddy and play with them. And if you are lucky, you can even be the fastest dad in your kid’s school.
Stress-buster: Running can be your stress buster or a replacement for meditation. In a stressful modern world, you need to vent out sometimes, and running can help you stay relaxed.
Connected: The information world makes the world seem a small place, but ironically people hardly meet in-person(not even their neighbors). Running has a knack of connecting people.
Me-time: We all need time to talk to ourselves. Running is one of the best and most natural way to provide it. To ensure i do, I don’t use ear-phones while running. I try to listen to myself.
After more than 10 failed attempts at quitting smoking, my fitness level was probably at its lowest ever. Smoking was the easiest go to stress-buster when the work load is too high and timelines are always hard to achieve. Though I could always resist myself from smoking for days in continuation but then one fine day the work load will be so high that you want a sudden relief from all these and reach out for a smoke. On an average I was easily smoking 3-4 packets a week(This was a packet a day before 2015).
I understood this can’t continue for ever, so I wanted to get into some sports, tried my hand into going to gym, sometimes weekend cricket with friends but they are hard to form a daily routine because of dependencies. I wanted to try something which I could persist for a long term. June 2018, when I thought of trying to run atleast 3 times a week. without any distance or long term goal. Only promise to myself was lets try for 3 times a week and see how it goes. First few days were horrible, had to stop 3 times in finishing a kilometer. After 2 weeks I was able to complete 1 km without stopping. Some day’s I would go in the evening, some days in the morning. Timing didn’t mattered, all I was focusing was ensuring the 3 times/week goal. After run legs used to pain like hell. I read lot of online articles how to reduce pain, and used to try them. Some stretchings, and sometimes keeping the leg resting on a wall to let the blood flow happen. These were working, but I had to apply those instant pain relief sprays almost every day before sleeping. My wife was getting frustrated with the smell of the sprays.
By the 5th week, I started enjoying this. I kept the total distance in a day to 3/4km in first 2 months. Then maintained 5km distance in 3rd and 4th. Only once in every two weeks I would push for 10km run. Those *long runs used to make me feel amazingly high. I stopped falling back on the cigarettes for the stress bust. Running makes you hate smoking. You just can’t let the smoke inside, your lungs repel the smoke. This feeling was so liberating.
Second and 3rd Month I continued to grind the distance. Monthly average mileage was at almost 100km from October’18 onwards. I started posting my runs on my close friends groups. And people also started to join in some of those runs. November 2018, motivated by Ashu, I registered for my first half marathon(Mid Night Marathon). I was so nervous about the run. I had never run more than 10 km before the race. So many thoughts going in the brain. Like, will my lungs blast if I continue to run for so long? Went on the race day with the target to be happy with my run if I just finish. And will be happiest if I finish it under 2hour 28min(i.e 7min/km pace).
Came the race night, The race was 4 loops each 5.25km long. I kept pushing, and the weather was amazingly cool, and the ambience was fantastic. I still have no clue what happened that day, i finished the run in 2hr 1min. I was so shocked that i double checked if i did 4 loops or hallucinating that i stopped at 3 loops thinking 4 loops. My mobile app showed i had completed 21km, and was relieved.
Diwali a festival of lights. Legend has it that Lord Ram returned from his 14 years of exile to Ayodhya and the people of Ayodhya celebrated his home coming with lights and since then the day is celebrated as Diwali.
The year 2020, when finally Ram Lalla is going to get this rightful place in his birthplace Ayodhya, the Diwali would be larger then ever. But with the Covid-19 still impacting daily social life, it couldn’t be what it could have.
When we were kids, our Diwali used to start a week before and end a week after Diwali(with Chhatt). The 2 weeks, with the just the perfect weather to stay out and enjoy the onset of winter.
How I remember my Diwali:
Starts with house clean, whitewash with limestone mixed with water and some Fevicol.
Reel-Guns. This used to cost 10 paise per reel. and we had learnt to burst it without the guns, by just rubbing on the floor with our fingers. Sometimes also doing some innovations like tying with some sharp stones and drop it on the floor.
Sonathi sticks. The light weight sticks which used to grow in our farm we used to pick it. Sometimes it used to work as ciggarates and sometimes to hold the Mirchi Patakha at one end in the center hold of the stick.
JamRaja(YamRaj). A day before Diwali we used to take a procession with our friends where we used to burn an effigy of YamRaaj(The God of Death). The effigy used to made of hay and some crackers tied inside and some waste cloths to cover it up. The old cycle tyres used to come in handy to keep the fire for a longer time.
Diwali: We used to spend our crackers(which was very limited) very miserly. If one person is burning others will wait for his crackers to lighten up then burn his. We also used to roam around to collect missed crackers, pull the firepowder from the crackers and keep in a paper, then burn when we used to have some significant amount.
Gambling used to be another aspect of Diwali, but somehow, i never played it.
Kali Pooja also happens on Diwali and there used to be a small fair in our village where we would go with friends and get on the TaraMaachi(Mary Go round) for a round.
Lakshmi Pooja at Diwali night on cousin’s shop used to be another attraction of Diwali. Only sad part of it was, we never got the Pooja Laddu until the next morning.
After Diwali, 6 days till Chhatt is a sequence of festivals. If Diwali is an occassion for cleaning the house. Chhatt was a community activity to ensure each road is clean till the way to the Pond. Those days are classic examples of how a community if is firm to keep the society clean, can easily do it. It just needs a resolve and committment from each member of society and not just depending on the government.
I have listed only some of the rituals and things we used to do in and around Diwali.
Our ancestors had designed these festivals with lot of thoughts and was also part of natural evolution. So many customs and rituals associated if you carefully observe brings would be amazed at the positivity it brings.
Houses used to be cleaner. Annual cleaning also ensures that you get rid of all unnecessary baggage you have in house.
Insects killed with the diyas and other fire related rituals in Diwali.
Roads and ponds cleaner.
Brings society closer, with more social and family bonding.
All runners and non-runners face this question/dilemma everyday. Why Run?
A very simple answer is “Because You Can?”
Though it is a very simplistic 3 word answer, but among all that I have heard as answers to this, this seems most profound.
There will be a day when you cant run, but today is not that day.
Run for the joy of running.
Run because, you find people who think similar, and the running community are one of the most helpful and friendly community you will ever find. You don’t have to go find people, this is a natural phenomena which will happen as you get regular.
A person’s life has several parallel threads that keeps running, like career, family, kids, travel, a new home and many others. And one thing common among all these life threads is, it also gives you anxiety, fear, stress and peer pressure. If you have a thread which is completely yours with freedom from all other attachments, anxieties in life reduces drastically. Sports can be one such thread. And among all sports, running is one game, which is the simplest and most natural to humans. You don’t have to depend on any group to go for a run. Groups do make running fun, but it is not a necessity.