Monday, March 26, 2012

How Fast is Too Fast?

Has it really been two weeks since I last blogged?  Man, time is getting away from me.

Things have been going fairly well on the running front.  I ran 8 on Saturday - officially the longest run since August (hopefully you'll be hearing me say that every weekend!) - and it went really, really well.  The miles ticked by effortlessly, and I was really holding my pace back at about 9:45 miles.  The final two miles were a bit faster to finish the run with an overall pace of 9:37.

I really don't like doing my long runs super slowly.  I don't mind it occaisionally, especially if I'm running with a group or a buddy whose long run pace is different than mine, but my comfortable cruising speed is 9:00-9:30/mile, depending on the distance.

Most of the running books I have read have emphasized keeping your long run s-l-o-o-o-w.

McMillan's running calculator prescribes my long run pace (based off a wild guess at my current half mary fitness) at 10:10-11:10 per mile. says that your long runs should be done 25-30% slower than your half marathon pace.  If my half marathon pace is approximately 9:00 min/miles, then I should do my long runs at 11:30 min/miles.  But man, that sounds like torture.  I love running, but not enough to be out there 30% longer than I have to be.

So, I did a little digging, and there were the cold hard facts in black and white:

Benefits of doing long runs slowly (adapted from

  1. Running slowly allows your muscles and joints to adapt.
  2. It improves your cardiovascular system
  3. It enhances your body's ability to burn fat as a source of energy.
  4. It teaches your body to store more glycogen in your muscles.
  5. Running slowly teaches your body to move more efficiently.  

But you know what?  I don't think I buy this long slow run thing.

Kim's reasons why slow runs are unnecessary:
  1. I hate running slowly.  Pretty important consideration, I think.
  2. I do lots of cross-training in that 60-80% heart rate zone... so I think that takes care of #s 2, 3, and 4. 
  3. I only run three days a week, so I have plenty of time for recovery.
  4. Slow runs are stupid!!!  This is a scientific fact.
  5. My form gets sloppier and sloppier the slower I move.  When I'm doing 400m repeats on the track, my form is about as good as it gets (which for me is still pretty rough).  But compare that to my form when I'm running 10:30 miles, and I look like a freaking Olympian.

But let's all remember, these opinions are coming from a girl who had two major running injuries last year, and  who has never excelled at distance running.

How much slower than your half marathon pace do you do your long runs?  Right now my long runs are about 30 seconds/mile slower than HMP.

Are your favorite workouts long slow runs, or short faster runs?  Give me a mid-distance progression run any day of the week.  I love finishing fast.

On your long runs, do you consciously adjust the pace (either fast or slower?) or do you just run what comes naturally?  I am constantly trying to slow down.  My body feels best when I'm running about 8 minute miles, but I don't have the endurance to keep that up over the long haul.


  1. I think part of it is that you are capable of running a much faster 1/2 marathon than you have.

    I like your logic - running too slow is stupid. :)

  2. I am not good at running artificially slow. I do my long runs at an easy, leisurely pace for me. I do not push myself to go faster. I consider it a "dicking around run."

  3. I feel like you. I can't go too slow or it just sucks as a run in general. I have to keep telling myself "Slow Down" especially in the beginning.

  4. I don't run my long runs slow at all, I can't figure out how! I run MAYBE 30 seconds per mile slower than my HMP. I know that isn't what "they" say to do, but they aren't me and this works (or doesn't) for me.

  5. my LR pace is supposed to be about what you mentioned as well...according to those calculators. but i really cant imagine being out there for any longer than i already am sometimes. haha. i guess im lazy but really...i cant get over NOT pushing myself somtimes to at least stay under 10 minute miles. i dont know. its always a dilemma for me to slow down or speed up.

  6. Are you training with Run Less, Run Faster?

    Long runs that are run painfully slow are.... painful. I say screw that. Plus, if you are training for a race, I don't buy that you can run all of your long runs a minute or more slower than race pace and still hit your goal.

    I say meh. Do whatever you want.

  7. I usually keep my long runs by what feels natural. Usually falls between 1-1:30 slower than my HM pace. I went on a really slow one last week and it was brutal...took forever!!


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