In a recent run with one of my friends, the topic of running slower than your expected race pace came up. Mostly because he was concerned he was “slowing me down” by running with me, as he hadn’t been running as much lately. Well, I told him that I need to be running 1-2 minutes slower than my anticipated race pace anyway, the majority of my training runs, as this will help improve my performance. He was surprised by this.
When he asked me why running slower would help me run faster in races, I didn’t really have a clear answer at that point. I somehow knew through my recent training program, and posts I had read on Instagram, that it was important to run easier when training, in order to help race performance. However, I didn’t exactly understand why at that time.
Then I started really digging into my running related text books and found an answer. I am going to paraphrase this, but essentially running easier helps with muscle recovery. This in turn, helps improve your running performance. Further, it translates to getting to that next level in a race. To put it simpler, when I’ve ran easier during this last training cycle (i.e., a minute or two slower than my race pace per mile) it has allowed my body to push the pace during races, to hit my ultimate goals. I have also felt it at the end of those races as my muscles have really felt the toll of the true race pace (hello sub 8 minute mile race pace)! I’ve been able to do this by training smart and giving my body proper recovery. I do feel that this, combined with having a “speed session” in the middle of the week, has helped me hit a PR in all of my goal races so far this year.
So now I have a definite answer. To run fast, you need to run slow to allow your body to heal and adapt. Though you also need to train smart and incorporate a speed session in there. The mid week speed session has definitely helped me-it has been a game changer, as I never did include that in my past training cycles. Finally, the strength training component, which I continue to do, and have incorporated in my last few training cycles, has really helped. My legs have gotten a lot stronger, and, obviously strong legs can only help my running!
I mentioned getting a PR in my goal races so far this year. Let me recap. In my first 10 mile race I finished in 1:18:21, in my 6th half marathon, I finished in 1:43:16, and in my most recent 10k (honestly I have no clue how many of these I’ve completed), I finished in 48:51. This year has been great so far for hitting my goals in races! Now my focus is on successfully completing my first marathon in November. At this point, while I would love to crush a few more PRs in the next few races I have leading up to the marathon, I know that it is not something that is part of the bigger picture of my end goal. That being said, I will race when I can, and hold back when necessary.
I will also try to make it a goal to blog about my journey a little more often. However, for a more regular picture of my running life, feel free to visit my Instagram account, which is @irish_runner80. Stay tuned, and happy running! 🙂