Thank you to GB Runner Robbie Britton for writing this piece reminding us that not every run you do is a race.
Everyone loves an easy run right? If you don’t then you’re probably not doing it right.
One of the most common mistakes we see in runners training for marathon and above is the “easy run smashed”. Too many people attack their easy running like it’s race day and you’re hitting the home straight, which really defeats the object of the run itself.
Every run should have a purpose and easy running is there to promote aerobic ability and muscle recovery through blood flow. Improving your aerobic ability ins’t about running as fast as you can all the time, but at a level that focuses on the improvements you want to make. Here’s an nice article about it: https://runnersconnect.net/
Here are three simple ways to have a look at your easy running and ask if it’s slowing you down on race day.
1. Does it feel easy?
Now this may sound patronising but the number of times I’ve gone for easy runs with others and they’re quite literally breathing out of every available orifice.
“Are we going too quick, happy to slow it down a notch?”
If it doesn’t feel easy then it’s not an easy run. We can all be guilty of getting a bit carried away on a nice trail or a fats bit of road, but if consistently your easy running feels a bit harder then easy then guess what? It’s too hard.
2) Are you constantly thinking about how it will look on Strava?
Being the top of the leaderboard on Strava may feel great and having the lowest average pace for the week for your club looks cool, but if all those guys running slower than you, week in, week out, are getting quicker race results then have a think. Strava and Facebook are great but the best way to show that you’re cooler than MC Hammer in a refrigerator is to beat everyone on race day. Winning an easy run doesn't count.
3) How do you feel the rest of the time?
A good training programme isn’t just about the speeds you hit in sessions but how kippered you are 24/7. Are you struggling to get out the door due to tiredness, falling asleep at your desk or just not feeling the love. Doing everything 10-15 seconds a mile quicker may not seem like much but the accumulative fatigue and stress on the body can leave you tired and run down.
Equally if you’re shatter when you come to your key sessions, like intervals, threshold work and long runs, then have a look at all the running around those. the key sessions are the ones you want to nail on the head.
One last thing on easy running, the second it goes over 90 minutes, 2 hours maximum, then it’s no longer an easy run, it’s a long run. No matter the pace, the time means it’s a long run. It can be an easy long run, but it’s still a long run and needs to be respected as such.
Ultimately you could go get a VO2 Max or Threshold Test done, get the stats in and stick religiously to your HR monitor, which for some is the only option, but being able to self gauge your easy pace is a valuable skill, especially for ultra runners.
Just take it easy out there, enjoy your running and you may even get faster because of it.
Robbie writes and trains in Chamonix, France as well as running for GB you can see his website here