Sunday, January 2, 2011

Do I Dare Run Faster on a Long Run?

Pacing. Sounds easy enough, but ask any runner and it can often be the bain of their existence. Before the dawn of wrist-bound GPS watches, you practically had to be a mathematician to calculate your pace as you ran.

I got smart for one marathon several years ago (I thought) and decided to print out one of those cool wrist pacing bands. I had read where if you covered it with clear packing tape before attaching it around your wrist, it would keep the moisture (sweat) out. Well, I didn't have any clear packing tape, but I did have clear Contact paper. Sounds like a good substitute, right? WRONG! Evidently Contact paper is porous and packing tape is not. So, halfway through the marathon I looked down at my wrist band. Under the contact paper was a swirl of colors. Basically I had a lava lamp on my wrist. Looked really pretty, but didn't do a dang thing for helping me keep up with my pace. Live and Learn.

Non runners and new runners often think that the second half of a race should be faster than the first half—a negative split. That may be doable in a shorter race, but more than likely with 5K, 10K, and even half marathon races, runners are shooting for even splits.  Even splits can be a tall order for a full marathon but it can be done. Some running experts say that it may be more realistic, espeically for a lesser experienced runner to shoot for the second half being about 5-mins slower than the first half.

To prepare for even marathon splits or splits that are somewhat close to each other, the key really is doing race-pace runs during your training along with your tempo and long slow runs. The tempo runs help push out your lactate threshold and increase your VO2Max, making you a stronger more efficient runner. The long slow runs, help build your mileage and your muscular endurance. In most training plans you run short-and-fast and you run long-and-slow, but you don't get to run at the pace you'll be running for 26.2 miles. Seems odd to have a goal race pace, but to never run it in your training.. I think sticking in some runs that allow you to run at pace will better prepare you for the race and better prepare you for your pacing during the race.

With my runners, I have them run some of their longer tempo runs (7 or 8 miles) at race pace. They begin and end with a 1-mile warm-up/cool-down followed with the tempo miles in between. It's also a good idea to take some of those long runs and instead of running them at a minute slower than race-pace try running them at 20 to 30 seconds slower than race pace. Another good strategy is to position a mid-mileage run (say maybe 14 or 15 miles) and run it at race pace (making sure to begin with a 1-mile easy warm-up). I've also discovered that adding some speed later in a long run is an effective strategy. For example, ramp up the pace to race pace or faster for the last two miles of your long run. This helps teach your body to know that it can "pull-out" some reserves at the end of the race. If you do this in your training, it won't surprise or shock your brain/body if you do it during the race.

The long slow run is important and the bulk of your long runs need to be done in this fashion, but ramping up the pace on a select few of these long runs can really help prepare you mentally and physically for running those even splits (or close to even splits) on race day.

16 comments:

Lauren said...

An even split on my upcoming 30k would be a dream come true -- the last 3 miles are so terribly difficult (but quite a joy) that I really have to amp it up for first half, big time. I'm realy hoping that my recent speed work pays off. Thanks for all the great advice in your blogs over the last year! My core is strong probably than it's ever been : )

Lauren said...

I like the article! I find I do my slow runs too fast and my fast runs too slow and I end up with this "middle-ish" pace I maintain most of the time. It's hard for me to let myself "slow down" on ANY run and it's hard to really push myself when I need to. Any advice?

RunnerDude said...

That's awesome Lauren! So happy to have been a part in your progress, but all the credit goes fully to you and all the hard work you've been doing. Here's to a great 2011!!

Lauren said...

Wait answer my post too! lol there's two laurens here! ;D

RunnerDude said...

LOL! It was weird. When I first responded your comment wasnt' showing. We must have been commenting and responding at the same time.

Your too fast problem is common too. One thing that may help is to think of each type of run as a quality run, each with a different benefit. So on those tempo runs, really try to push yourself. Those runs should be "uncomfortable." Your long runs (for the most part) need to be slower by about 1-minute from your race pace to build muscular and cardiovascular endurance. However on those targeted long runs where you add some speed (as mentioned in the post) you can ramp it up a notch. You can add that ending fast 2-miles to all your long runs if you want. That may help you keep it slower knowing that you can blast it out at the end. Adding some track work like intervals can also help five you a venue for your speedy side as well as really ramp up your VO2Max and push out youru lactate threshold even more than the tempo runs can. So, try to think quality and specific purpose for each run. Hope this helps.
Happy New Year!!

Jen said...

Pacing is definitely one of the hardest things for me. I think experience has a lot to do with it too. I like your ideas and can't wait to try them out on my next long run. Thanks for all your good info.

rihamah said...

A great tip that really helps you get to your maximum limits during races.
Thanks for sharing, Cool picture by the way it is really funny :))
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RunnerDude said...

Hi Jen! Keep me posted on your progress!! Happy New Year!

TRI714 said...

great info that I needed. Thank you

RunnerDude said...

Sure thing, Craig! Happy New Year!

Kenley said...

Very awesome post in regards to pacing and adding in some voltage to your long run. Tempo runs are great, but you are running a marathon, not that distance. What I love doing is taking my 15 mile run or any long run for that matter, 15 is just easier for the math. Break it down into 3s. run the first mile 1 minute slower than than race pace, then the 2nd one 30 seconds slower than race pace, then the last 3 miles @ race pace, then repeat 3 times. The question is for most.......What is my marathon race pace? Hey, love what you are doing here man. Take care and Happy New Years.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Kenley! Great workout. We should call it "The Kenley Three." It's kind of like running graduated fartleks. Nice idea.

Yep, it's really good to vary the types of runs. Those tempo runs are key in marathon traning for building aerobic fitness, increasing VO2Max, and pushing out your lactate threshold, but like you, I think it also important to do runs at or near race pace as well. Hope you guys had a great holiday and New Year!

Ted said...

I have had a problem with the concept of one minute slower than race pace since I started running a year ago. It sort of locks you into a predetermined pace/finish, no? It does not allow you to push yourself and determine if you can do better than originally planned. For my second marathon, I have significantly increased my pace of all runs and will determine race pace about a month out rather than at the beginning of training. Is that completely crazy?

RunnerDude said...

Hi Ted! The thinking behind the 1-minute slower than race pace is buiding muscular endurance and mileage. Also, if all your runs are at or close to race pace you run the risk of overtraining. This can happen more so with less experienced runners, but it can also happen with experienced ones too. Your body needs some slower runs. It's kind of like active recovery. You're staying limber with the slower runs, but you're not pushing it so your body had the ability to recoup some. Complete rest days are needed too for the same reason. With my clients we start out with a predicted race pace and race finish goal time, but as the training progress, we make adjustments to pace as needed. Especially if the person does a 5K, 10K, or better yet a half marathon race during the training, that can really help you make good adjustments to their training goals. Just because it says on paper you should run one pace doesn't mean that won't change along the way. Run hardy my man!

Greg Strosaker said...

Your point regarding long/slow and short/fast is spot on, too many programs don't do enough miles at MP. Whether a dedicated mid-length (say, 8-12 mile) MP run or as part of a long run, I think it's important to, at least every other week (and perhaps weekly), incorporate MP miles into your training.

All long slow distance teaches you is to run long distances slow.

FruitFly said...

I'm really glad you posted this! I am just now at the point in training for my first half marathon where the long runs are distances I have yet to do, aside from 3 10K races. I keep wondering about pace and if I need to be going faster, slower, the same. I feel like I always just have one pace no matter what I do. Tonight I am going to try to pick up the pace for my final mile and see what I'm made of!