Want to run faster? Then learn to run slower!
As a pastor I often counsel people to slow down and learn to enjoy each day that comes. Part of that enjoyment is found in learning love the journey and to not be in such a hurry to get to the destination. When it comes to running, its taken me awhile to apply this bit of wisdom.
Here’s a little back story:
I have been running for almost four years. When I started I was doing intervals of walking and running. Even this was a bit hard but each month the running portion got longer and longer. My first 5k was completed in 36:16 on July 4, 2012. I can still remember how hard it was to run this race!
Since then I’ve improved and my last two half marathons were completed at an average pace of 10:45. Not a bad improvement! Now theoretically (with adequate training) I should have been able to complete a marathon about 5 hours. So last year I tried my first marathon with a goal of finishing (and not dead last). I met my goal but my time was closer to 6 hours than 5. (5:50:54, avg pace of 13:20, all due to collapsing the second half). While happy that I finished, I thought I could have done better.
This year I signed up for the same race, the Ventura Marathon, September 13. More importantly, I signed up for a training program that started May 3rd. Not having ever trained with anyone and only using training plans from the internet I was pretty excited…and a bit nervous.
Surprisingly for me was the first bit of training advice/instruction was to “run slow”. We were told to look at a long run pace calculator (I didn’t even know these existed!) Much to my surprise my train pace was 12:16, which is very close to the pace of my very first 5k. A tip for determining if you are running slow enough while training is the conversation test. Can you comfortable talk to someone? In complete sentences? If the answer is “no” then you need to slow down. Running alone? I once read a suggestion to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I do this periodically (while wondering what others think!). I don’t advise trying to sing along to whatever music you may be listening to as that I’ve discovered is a bit difficult.
My initial reaction to this instruction to run SLOW was a whiny in my mind, “No! I want to get faster, not go backward.” But, having paid the money for the expertise of the coach I decided to try it. It was very hard at first. (Who am I kidding a slow pace is still hard for me!) But I discovered that my legs were much happier; I could indeed run longer; and recovery was easier.
Thankfully the training program also includes some fast running: tempo and threshold workouts some of which were a series of 5k races over the summer. I’ve been enjoying these, especially as I’ve been able to get a bit faster each week.
One week I sent an email to the coach expressing my happiness with these faster runs and his response was something like, “you need to learn to enjoy the slow.”
He’s right! And not just in regards to running. Let’s all try and slow down a bit… take some time to enjoy our families, our friends, the scenery around us, even the little things that we do each day. In doing so the rest of what we do might just get to be a bit easier.