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Learning to Run Slower

Saturday, December 08, 2012

On Thursday, I thought about having a dawn run today. That didn't happen; the run didn't start till about 8 am, when it was light. I like having daylight to run in, anyway. Since I don't have the 9 am appointment on Saturdays that I had a year ago, I can afford to wait for daylight to run.

My morning light jog up and down the hallway showed my bad foot to be better that it has been in a while. I could contemplate a longer run, given all morning to work with. But let's check the mileage. I have 8.6 miles in already this week. I only ran 7.25 miles last week, but I ran 14 miles, with intervals, a couple weeks ago. If I parse 7 day intervals, I ran 13.4 miles in 7 days starting with the Thanksgiving 10K, then had to take a regular running day off.

So, what to do? I want to get back to running 3 days a week. I'd like to build the ability to do longer runs on weekends. But I don't want to increase the mileage enough to make the bad foot crap out on me. I decided to compromise. I'd run 10K or a bit more, but I'd try to learn to run slower like all the training plans call for doing on longer runs.

First try at learning to run slow is to use the tools I have. I set RunKeeper to give me a readout of distance, average pace, and current pace every minute. Current pace isn't very accurate, but average pace and distance are good enough to work with.

When I got started, it was 41° F and cloudy, with a very light fog, negligible wind, and wet pavement. I did a short warmup, trying to keep it slow. Found a pace that felt kind of like jogging across a street to beat the light, without a lot of urgency. Started the real run at about that pace, and kept my stride short.

At the one minute mark, RunKeeper reported an average pace of 9 minutes and change. I ignored that, because the first average pace always seems to be slow. I think this has to do with the inaccuracy of starting the app versus starting the run. By the time I put my gloves on at 5 minutes, I was getting average paces a little over 8 minutes. That might not be as slow as the experts say to run, but it's a significant slow down for me.

RunKeeper reported a distance of 0.98 miles at 8 minutes. Cool. I'd manage to stay over an 8 minute pace for a full mile. By then I'd gone up and down a gentle hill, and hardly noticed. I was at the bottom of the big hill, going the easy direction.

The big hill wasn't any big deal at the slower pace. It turned out to be about a mile from the low point before it started to the bottom of the other side. Since I was running the easy direction, the other side was a fairly steep downhill. It was hard not to speed up. RunKeeper announced 2.0 miles at 15:56, and the average pace after that was always below 8 minutes.

By the 4 mile mark, I was having trouble deliberately adjusting my pace in fine detail. I was still running slower than my typical weekday run, but faster than I set out to run. I just couldn't slow to an 8 minute mile. Along about 6 miles, my bad foot mentioned that it would be good to stop soon. So I went home by the most direct route from that point, with a bit of a slowdown near the end as I fumbled with the iPhone to look at what the app reported.

Total time turned out to be 51:51 for 6.62 miles, for an average pace of 7:50 per mile. This was characterized generally by running a little faster later in the run than early in the run:

The blue line is pace, expressed as minutes per mile. A high point on the blue line is a slow pace, and low point is a fast pace. It's clear that I'm slower uphill and faster downhill (duh!), but I also see a gradual pace increase over the course of the run. When I'm not trying to run slow at first, my pace slows over the course of a run this long. I'll have to think about that, and think about what marathon runners mean when they speak of "negative splits."

The green line shows elevation; if I mouse over the graph on the RunKeeper site, it shows feet above sea level. I see that the big hill has a total rise of 100 feet from the bottom to the top. Hmm. The map for the Flower City Challenge half marathon shows a rise of 103 feet over a bit more than a mile, while my training hill has a rise of 100 feet in about 0.4 miles the hard way. Good enough for training, I hope.

The RunKeeper site also gives me splits:

Mile 1 - 8:09
Mile 2 - 7:47
Mile 3 - 7:46
Mile 4 - 8:06
Mile 5 - 7:34
Mile 6 - 7:43

Mile 4 was some little hill work; RunKeeper reports a net gain in elevation of 41 feet. It looks like those hills helped keep my pace down, but otherwise I wasn't very good at holding to an 8 minute mile.

Still, I have to call this a success for a first attempt at running slow. Assuming all goes well with the bad foot, which is feeling pretty good right now, I think I'll try for an 8 minute pace again next week. Maybe I'll get better at it with practice.

Yeah, I've seen the recommended slow paces for long distance training. Right now, I don't think I can make myself run a 9 minute mile. But an 8 minute mile seems possible. Maybe if I can learn that, I can learn a slower pace later.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MIRAGE727
    I have to do the same thing in embracing a slower pace. Thanks for sharing. This has been most educational!
    1868 days ago
    Well, about 8 min/mile is still slower than your usual pace,
    I hope it will help relax and recover your foot and thigh.
    I wonder if you will have to dress warmer if you run slower in the winter!
    1868 days ago
    Just listen to your body!
    Have a great Sunday!
    1868 days ago
  • RG_DFW
    Good work
    1869 days ago
    Sounds like a good start. My regular pace is about 8 minutes per mile and I typically run 3 to 5 miles and I seem to be pretty consistent throughout. I can't seem to get that to budge either direction though.
    1869 days ago
    take care of that foot, and I think you are fantastic, me, am good at a 22 minute mile, not much better emoticon
    1869 days ago
    Sounds like a good run.
    Glad your foot didn't give you any problem. There is hope in that.
    If you could hit an 8.5 minute pace on the first half and an 8 minute pace on the second half that would be a great negative split.
    1869 days ago
    Here's the deal: if your race pace is sub-7, 8 is a plausible training pace. 9 would be "better" according to all the experts... but we do what we can.

    In my case, my best ever race pace is 9 minute miles for 5 miles. My so-called "magic mile" is 9 minutes. They are telling me to do long runs with a 13 minute pace. This morning? 11 minutes 15 seconds average over the whole run.

    And that includes my 5 minute walking warm up and a quarter mile walking cool down! Mostly, Runkeeper tells me I'm running between 10:30 and 10:50 splits except when I do a mile that includes significant walking (warm up, cool down, and re-warm up following potty stop).

    So in any real sense, I'm about a minute and a half off my race pace for my long run today. And I'm OK with that. It felt easy. It felt "zen".

    Sounds like yours did, too. I think both of us have to be careful to factor in that we are still relatively "new" runners, not vets of five years or more... we're still finding our natural fit stride!

    I feel like I'm about a year behind you, even though I may have started sooner!
    1869 days ago
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