Something new for the new year

Okay, fine. I give.

During the last two years I’ve been running seriously, I’ve pretty much refused to run long distances. I’ve also pretty much refused to run slowly.

My run training has consisted almost exclusively of shorter, faster/more intense runs.

I like running, but not the same way most runners seem to. A lot of runners seem to like the experience of it all — nice, leisurely, scenic 10-mile jaunts around picturesque landscapes. Me? I say that’s boring!

I tend to prefer to come away from each run spent. I want to feel all the work I just put my body through. I want to feel the improvement. I’m not running for the view; I’m running to be fast.

If charitable 400-meter dashes were a commonplace thing like 5Ks are, I’d probably opt to do those. But they aren’t. The shortest races I can find for the general running public are one-mile races. And they aren’t even as prevalent as longer races.

But after reading up on some different ideas for run training, even for runners simply focusing on 5Ks, one common theme was that of long and slow runs. And after some thought, I made my decision: I finally gave in to the dreaded long, slow run.

Last night I went to gym and put in some treadmill work. This was to be my first intentional slow run, and a long one at that. It’s part of a training plan I’m jumping in to the middle of for an indoor 5K I’m running in a few weeks. By the end of yesterday’s workout, I logged not only my longest-ever distance run, but also my longest time spent running at one time:

I ran 6 miles in 47:03 — a 7:50/mile pace.

My previous longest distance run at one time was 5 miles, and I did that only while I was preparing for a 7K early last year. I do try to run a little longer than my target race distances, but not as long as I did last night. My max distance while training for 5Ks is usually around 4 miles. But none of that training has ever been at a pace as slow as last night’s. And even though I like to feel spent after runs, I hated how I felt after the 7K training.

In hindsight, it’s because I was probably doing it too fast.

Nonetheless, I was dreading last night’s run. My plan was to run 6 miles in 48 minutes — my goal pace was 8:00/mile. I had to convince myself that I was going to follow through with the slower pace. I worried it’d be boring, and I worried I’d still feel as bad as I did during 7K training.

Wrong. Well, sort of. It was definitely boring at times, but I didn’t hate it. I never felt as burned out as I usually do in my shorter, harder runs, although I still felt tired. But it was different.

It felt easy at times, so I increased the speed 0.1 mph a few times, dropped it down once, and increased it again. My max speed was only 7.9 mph. I almost never run sub-8.0 mph on the treadmill. And even then, I only start out at 8.0 and build up to whatever fast speed I’m targeting that day.

This was a whole different experience. And during the final stretch of the run, I began acknowledging that this was a good thing, theorizing that my 5K times may possibly improve because of this, as it may possibly increase my end-race endurance.

I don’t know if that’s truly the theory behind it or not, but I plan on keeping up with these long runs. As part of the training for that 5K later this month, I have four more runs I’d consider “long” — two 7-mile runs, and then two 5-mile runs, one of which is supposed to be “fast.” I haven’t decided on my target pace for that one yet, but it’s the second-to-last of the long runs, so I’ll probably determine it after I get those other two under my belt.

Hopefully this helps. But even if not, I can’t say I didn’t try something new this year.

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