I used to be quite a fast runner. I ran a 2:11:08 half marathon my first time racing that distance. I've also ran 9 or 10 minute miles at shorter distances quite regularly before I started marathon training. But when I started training for a marathon, the advice I kept hearing was to go slooooooow. Don't start out too fast or you'll crash and burn, hit the wall and risk a DNF. So I focused all my efforts on running slowly. Every single long run, I told myself to slow down over and over. Looking back, I think I overdid it with the go-slow method. Whilst I didn't hit any walls during the marathon, I didn't break any speed records either and it's taken since April to get back to the point where I can run 10 minute miles again!
Something I have noticed is that my fastest runs have tended to be when I've had no idea how fast I'm going and I judge when to speed up or slow down purely by how hard it feels like I'm working. If I'm getting too out of breath then I slow down a little. If I'm going downhill then you can be sure I'll be taking full advantage of the earths gravitational pull to speed up a little and gain some momentum. Recently I've been trying to run according to how my body feels, rather than by trying to keep up with a certain pace the whole time. It seems to be working quite well because I'm starting to be able to run in ways that I didn't know I was capable of.
Take yesterday's run for example. It ended up being a fantastic run. The half mile warm up run was ran at around 10:30/mi and that was my easy pace. Not so long ago, that would have been hard. It was only half a mile though, big deal. Thing is, that was the slowest I ran for the whole run. I was running with a couple of lovely people from SRC who usually I can't keep up with. This time I did. There were even points when they struggled to keep up with me. Most of the run (5.87 miles in total) was ran at just over 10 minute miles. This alone would be enough to please me immensely, but the best bits are as follows:
- Not only did I not slow down to almost a crawl at the top of the hills like I usually would to skive/recover - I kept running fast to keep up with my fellow sweatshoppers (thanks for the being the incentive I needed you two!)
- I managed to run up the longest and steepest of the 2 hills at speed, which is where one of them struggled to keep up with me. Even I couldn't believe that the top was approaching so fast.
- And the very best bit is that the last 1.87 miles didn't feel so tough because I was worn out from the hills like I thought at the time. I realised when I checked my Garmin that it was because I'd ran them at 9:20/mi.
So there was a few running lessons learned for me yesterday.
- Running with people a little faster than you is good because it encourages you to push yourself and if you pick the right person then you'll always be pushing a little to catch up, but not pushing so hard that you get hurt. Just don't go mad and run with an elite-type who'll leave you for dust within the first mile.
- Running according to perceived effort works better for me than having a computer tell me how fast to run each mile. I'm not a car, I don't have to stick to speed limits.
- You are always capable of more than you thought you were. Luckily for me that means there's still hope for my 'become-the-next-Paula-Radcliffe' dream.