Running slow and loving it

Ever feel like you’ve uncovered a really well kept secret? That’s how I feel when I discovered the importance running slow.

That’s right: s-l-o-w. Right now, I’m logging about 20-23 miles a week and 80% of them are run at a pace slower than my 10K PR pace. To be a little more specific, I’m running about a minute to a minute and half slower. I’m loving it!

I used have this “no pain-no gain” attitude. I think it’s one that most runners, if not all athletes, have a hard time shaking off. There were times I feel like I cheated myself if I wasn’t thoroughly exhausted after a run. I would berate myself for not running faster. That mindset made sense at the time but now it explains a lot.

After a period of running those soul-crushing runs, my body started to rebel – via injury. What I didn’t realize is that I couldn’t run at a race pace every time I set foot on the road. It took me a while to draw that conclusion – maybe the number of injuries or training burnout should’ve provided a hint?

I came around to the slow running strategy when following my achilles injury. I knew I needed to ramp up so I started small with mileage and pace. It was tough at first but I grew used to it. I had to get over that no pain, no gain mentality.

After a few weeks, I realized that I was recovering faster and my body felt really good. Typically after a “no pain-no gain” run, I’m stiff and sore complemented by a twinge in my knee or hip. Now I’m running 7 miles (for a long run) and I feel great.

The tricky part of running slow is accepting my data. I see the pace, distance, and overall time and know I could do it much faster. The keyword is could. In the big picture view of running, if a large part of miles are at a race pace, I’m not allowing my body to recover properly. Completely breaking down the muscles and then doing it all over again the next day or two spells disaster. I don’t know even think elite runners train like that so why should I?

While majority of my miles are at a slower pace, I do some workouts that incorporate speed. I usually schedule at least one run of intervals or fartleks and then a tempo run with my running club. This satisfies my need for speed without overdoing it.

What I can’t determine is if this running slow strategy is a fad or not. I don’t think it is because I’m not seeing other blogs raving about running slow. Runner’s World isn’t advocating it. Not that either medium is the total authority on running.

I’m reading the Hanson’s Marathon Method right now, and the authors overwhelming advocate slow running with speed factored in where appropriate. I’m three quarters done with the book and Hanson’s philosophy totally makes sense.

Runner Academy Podcast

Other supporting evidence is coming from the Runner Academy podcast. If you’re not a subscriber – do so right now! Coach Matt Johnson had a great interview author Matt Fitzgerald about running slow (aka 80/20 principle). A lot of my assumptions about running slow were validated after listening to the interview.

Matt Fitzgerald also wrote a whole book about a running slow strategy. It’s definitely on my reading list now.

What’s the next? I’m training for my first marathon (stay tuned for details) but I have a few pounds to lose before training begins in late April/ early May. Following the Hanson’s Method, running slow is a must so I feel I’m already on track to implement and follow this plan.

My hope is that this running slow principle guides me to healthier, injury free running and faster times too (listen to the RA podcast to find out how).

What are your thoughts on running slow?

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