Posted by: Joe English | August 30, 2010

Training — How Slow Should My Long-Slow Distance Runs be?

running-advice-bugA runner named Gina writes in with a very common question that has to do with pacing in the longest runs in a marathon training plan. Here’s the question and my answer:

I think I’m running too fast on my shorter training runs and I don’t know a) if that’s a problem and b) how to force myself to slow down. According to the McMillan running calculator my tempo runs shouldn’t be faster than an 8:38 and my easy runs should be between 9:36 and 10:06. I pretty much have to force myself to stay at a 9-minute mile for the majority of my runs–even those that get near 11-12 miles. When I run a 10-minute mile I feel like I’m going backwards. Part of this is definitely that I’m pressed for time and part of it is that I just like to run fast (a relative term, but fast for me!).

In fact, many running plans suggest that their runners slow down between 1 to 2 minutes per mile when they doing their longer/slower runs. These runs are usually called the “long/slow distance runs” and this pace may also be used in other “recovery” runs. The idea here is three fold:
1) To maximize the amount of time that you spend out on your runs — because if you can slow the runner down and make what would be a 2 1/2 hour run last 3 hours that’s 30 more minutes logged on the feet. This means that on race day, you will have run closer to the amount of time that you’ll be expecting to run in the race, but with less effort.

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