Slowing Down for a Fast Marathon

I have a bad habit of going too fast. I know, running fast sure doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but trust me — when training for a marathon running fast can be a very bad thing! Because I am focusing on TWENTY SIX POINT TWO miles (that’s a lotta miles, folks!), I’m not worried about speed. I need to train for strength and endurance. Speed work, running fast, and pushing the pace can lead to burn out and injury — and those will certainly slow you down!

The last few weeks have been pretty terrible in terms of workouts. I’ve felt awful, my legs have been tight, my hips have been locking up, and I’ve struggled to finish my repeats. I was so beat in my last track workout that I ended up missing a lap on my last repeat as well as cut the workout down from 5 to 3 repeats. I was beginning to dread lacing up my shoes and sorta, kinda hated the idea of running. At first I thought I was coming down with something (a cold, the flu, depression, boredom). Then I blamed it on the snow (can’t run on the trail away from traffic where I feel safe) and the never ending snow days (seriously, my kids will still be in school in July!). Then I figured it was probably my period, since hormones just suck. But yesterday I went back over some of my Garmin data.

I had been running well. At least the numbers said so. I was fast! All of my repeats were blistering and my distance was decent. So, why was I feeling so crappy if I kept setting PRs? Because I was running too fast for marathon training! Setting personal bests in the 400m, 800m, 1000m, and mile distances in workouts was a tip off. While I’m pretty damn ecstatic that I can do some of these things, that I’m faster now than I was in college (over 10 years ago!!), I know that these are not paces that will help get me through a  l  o  n  g distance race. I need to build endurance through long runs and the strength to run them with repeats at or **slightly** below race pace.

Today I switched things up. Instead of running my 1000 meter repeats at “hard pace” (to me that’s been “a bit more effort than 5k pace” which is generally about 6:00-6:30 or so, depending on length) I ran them at a conservative 10k pace. 7 minutes and 15 seconds per mile pace. I would have to adjust and readjust in the first 30 to 45 seconds to find the pace. I was always going too fast. It felt oddly slow…oddly rhythmic. I followed up 5 by 1000m with 10 minutes at marathon pace (so, about 2000m at a hair below 8:00 pace since a lot of it was down hill). I felt great! I felt like I could run the whole workout again. But at the same time I did feel like I had put in good effort — just not enough to make my body hurt or make my mind want to quit.

For the next (almost) six weeks I’m focusing strictly on PACE. That means I’m going to have to slow myself down. I’ll probably have to refrain from running on the track since I tend to move a lot quicker there than on the road. I’ll have to actually LOOK at my watch and SLOW DOWN when I’m going too fast. Repeats and strength work will consist of conservative 10k paces and half marathon paces only; not a step will be faster than 7:00, I swear!!  I am pretty confident that a month and a half of running slow will get me to a fast marathon. At the very least I’ll be fresh and injury free!

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