50 Shades of Pace

This post is for all of you who want to get faster, but seem to be spinning your wheels.

By far, one of the biggest differences between well-trained runners and wannabes is the competency at a variety of paces. Just like your favorite road bike has lots of different gears to optimize your effort and pace, so should you as a runner.

It's worth developing a wide palette of paces because they all compliment each other. If I can run long and slow, then I will recover more quickly between faster intervals because of my endurance. If I can sprint really fast, then running slower for a long time (like in a marathon) becomes easier because each stride is a smaller percentage of my maximum power output.

Not only do you need to practice running fast (strides and sprints) and running easy for a longer period of time, but you absolutely need to spend some time surrounding the pace at which you intend to race.

Let's say you can run 22 minutes for 5K. In fact, you've been stuck at that performance level for a while, unable to crack the 22 min mark. Time to try something new!

In order to break 22, you need to be able to sustain 7:00 per mile for 3.1 miles.

But while your goal pace might be 7:00/mile, you'll need to do most of your running between 8:10 and 9:40 per mile. This is easy, relaxed running but in my experience most people have a hard time running easy. This forms the cake and faster paces the icing, so don't underestimate the value of easy running.

Ok, here's where it gets fun.

You'll need some time running faster than 5K pace. What pace is that? I can think of a few:

  • 400m pace
  • 800m pace
  • 1 mile race pace
  • 2 mile race pace

Do you know what those are for you? That may just be your first step! Go run an all-out mile and find out.

Some common workouts at those paces:

  • 8X 100m uphill @ 400m race effort w/ walk-back recovery
  • 8X 400m @ 1 mile race pace w/ 400m jog recovery
  • 5X 800m @ 2 mile race pace w/ 400m jog recovery

Meanwhile you need to be approaching 5K pace from the slower end as well to build your stamina. What paces are those?

  • 10K race pace
  • 1 hour race pace
  • Half Marathon pace
  • Marathon pace

Here are some common workouts at those paces, too:

  • 3-4 mile run @ 1 hour race pace
  • 4X 1 mile @ 10K pace w/ 2 min jog recovery
  • 4-5 mile run @ half-marathon race pace
  • 6-8 mile run @ marathon pace

Man, that's a lot of different paces and workouts. How can I do them all each week? Uh, well, you don't, but I love your enthusiasm!

Since most of us have plenty of stress going on outside of training, I'd pick 1 shorter/faster session and 1 stamina session to do each week. And honestly, I'd probably embed the stamina work into your long run (assuming you've been doing long runs for a while). This will reduce injury risk and ensure you make it to the starting line.

Here's where the art of coaching comes into play and we start blending these ingredients together with a goal of being able to run the following workout about 10-14 days before your goal race:

  • 5X 1000m @ 5K pace w/ 1 min recovery.

That session is a great predictor of how you'll run in a race because you're practically running 5K at your goal pace. You're doing it in training (albeit with those tiny little 1 minute rests), so with a little taper and the extra motivation a race provides, why wouldn't you be able to do it in a race?

So, having used the 5K as an example, the take home point is this: incorporate a variety of paces in your training diet. Become proficient at running slowly (2 to 3 minutes slower than 5K pace) to coax your aerobic system and build your cake. For the icing, become smooooooth while cruising at 40-60 seconds per mile faster than 5K pace. Make it look easy even if it's not!

Wanna be THAT runner? Check out Philly Surge Running, a weekly professionally coached track session held each Tuesday night at Temple University's brand new track. We'll make sure you blast through that plateau!

**We will be meeting behind the Art Museum to utilize the "natural terrain" (read: HILLS) from Jan 10 - Feb 28, 2017 for a strength and power block of training. =====> Yes, you need this.