Running Different Distances using Different Strategies
One thing I have discovered is that I have a different strategy for the different distance races that I run. A 5K is more of a sprint race for me. It’s over with before I feel like I have hit my rhythm most of the time. That does not mean I am a fast runner. It just means that I have to set my mind to running those 3 miles as fast as I can.
When I run a 10K race, I typically run the first 3 miles slower than the second half of the race. Of course this is dependent on the race course. One 10K race that I have run in the summer is downhill for the first half, and it is back up that same hill in the second half of the race. I just try to not let my legs go too fast on the downhill in that race. It would be easy to crash and burn before the end of this race if I let gravity dictate a faster downhill speed than I could comfortably maintain.
For any race over a 10K, I use the first several miles as easy paced miles. I don’t push hard. I don’t try to pass people. I save up for the last couple of miles. When I train, I always strive to finish with my last mile as my best mile. Then I am accustomed to doing this for a race. I have been passed by lots of people early in a race, and later I see them as I pass them back. I don’t try to outrun them early in the race. Ask anyone who leads the race. It’s hard to stay in front of someone the whole race and hold on to the lead in the last part of the race, especially if you have someone in the race who runs a pace close to your pace. I have literally fixed my eyes on a runner in front of me and just kept them in my sights them the entire race until the end. In the last mile of the race, I do my best to pass them. I have let people lead me and let them get tired out and pass them. It’s probably the farthest thing from my normal personality, but I tend to get competitive in a race.
A half marathon takes a different philosophy for me, and I have completed eight half marathons. I tend to divide it in my mind into two 10K’s. That helps me break it down and keep a good pace for the first half and a better pace for the second half. A half marathon is a reachable goal for most people who run 3 or 4 days a week and can build up with a long run once a week. It is quite an accomplishment to complete a half marathon. It takes persistence and goal setting. If you want to set a first big goal after doing a 5K, I suggest the half marathon.
In marathon and beyond training, I schedule a long, slow weekly run. During the week, I will do one tempo run where each mile is close to my goal pace for the race. The distance for most of my tempo runs is anywhere from 3 miles to 5 miles. I will also do an interval run where I run 1 mile fast, and then I will run slow for 1.5 minutes. I will repeat this for 5 miles. While my overall pace will be slower. The fast 1 mile segments are teaching my legs to go faster. I am building up my endurance this way. I will also have a slow, easy run during the week to give my body a break. I call these my recovery runs. The goal is to get the time on my feet running, but I am not out there running every training run at my top speed. That is just asking for an injury. It is also enjoyable to go at a slower pace and enjoy the scenery around me, too. Sometimes, I get so focused on a certain pace that I don’t enjoy the moment I am in or the scenery around me. Having a scheduled slow run each week allows me to really go out for the love of the run. I love my faster runs, but I don’t enjoy my surroundings as much.
As I have been moving toward ultra training, I am seeing a trend that I will run slower in a long run to conserve energy. I listen to my body and fuel differently for a training run that is 20 miles long versus a training run that is 10 miles long. From what I have learned from reading about ultra training, using the run/walk method is very common in an ultra endurance event. The goal is to finish. The goal is not to go out fast and not be able to finish the race. Ultra events start at 31 miles and go up from there. Most events have a time limit, so you may not get the full course mileage, but you have to weigh the cost to your body in going at a fast speed early in the race. You have to have enough energy to finish.
Before a race, I do not always run a race course. I run some races year after year, so I am familiar with many courses. If I have the opportunity to do a course preview run with a group, I will usually go. The hardest thing for me to do in a race preview is to follow all of the turns. On race day, the turns are marked, and there are often volunteers out on the course to direct you. It’s much harder to run the course ahead of time without the markings for the turns.
My main goal prior to a race is to train for the distance I am racing. I try to have a long run that is comparable to the race distance at least two weeks before a race. Because I have been training for a marathon and beyond, my weekly long runs are 10 miles are longer, so I can decide at the last minute to run in a race without too much stress on my body. I don’t recommend that you do this, but once you are comfortable with certain distances, you can decide the night before a race if you want to do one.
Have a great week!