Last week I got out for a long run. At 5.14 miles, I exactly matched the distance of my previous longest run of the year. (I ran the same route.) I also just about matched the time, running it in 1:07:04 versus 1:07:50 back in June (a 13:03 pace, versus a 13:12 pace).
At this point, I’m pretty happy with the duration of my long run. I want to be able to run for an hour, and I can now do that. Running for an hour makes me feel great. I like to attribute this to endocannabinoid production, although I don’t actually have any evidence for that. Whatever the cause, running that long makes me feel good in a way that running for 20 minutes doesn’t.
At this point, I don’t see much reason to ramp up the distance further. It might be that running even further would make me feel even better, but I hesitate to risk finding out. Where would it end? More particularly, would it end before my body broke down from the stress of running ever-longer runs?
On the other hand, I’d like to run a bit faster. In particular, I’d like to be able to run 6 miles in the hypothetical one-hour run that makes me feel so good.
To see whether I was in striking distance of that, I went out for a fast run yesterday, doing what I call a tempo run. (I run a tempo run simply by running a comfortable distance—the same as I might run for an easy run—but running pretty hard.) I ran my Kaufman Lake loop, which is 1.5 miles, and I did it in 14:12 for a 9:36 pace.
So that’s pretty promising. I can run the duration I want to run and I can run the speed I want to run. Now it’s just a matter of closing the gap—getting fit enough to run that speed for the whole distance.
I think that’s doable. Today I did my usual easy run of 2.2 miles, but I ran just a little faster than I’ve been lately, setting a 10:43 pace.
In fact, I don’t think I even need much of a plan. I’ll just go on doing a long run of about an hour every week or two, picking up the pace a bit as it feels comfortable to do so. And I’ll try to fit in a fast run every week, letting the distance creep up a bit as it seems like my fitness supports it.
With any luck I’ll be running an hour at a 10-minute-per-mile pace before the snow flies.
Philip, if you’re still running the twice short once long you have listed in your post from July, I don’t think your plan is likely to get you faster without injury. Your problem isn’t speed – you just ran 1.5 miles faster than your goal pace. Your problem is endurance – stretching out that faster running to encompass four times as many miles. Concentrating on speed is missing the point, and more likely to injure you than concentrating on overall weekly mileage and endurance.
If you could run more frequently, and make your short runs longer, I think that would support occasional tempo runs. You also might consider throwing strides into your easy runs: accelerate for a slow 6-count to the fastest pace you can hold with good form, hold it for another slow 6-count, then slow to your usual pace over 4-6 more seconds. Recover fully from each stride before doing another, and do 2-5 of them.
If you could turn two of your weekly short walks (60 min) into long runs (gradually! Maybe combining them at first, walking for 45 minutes and running 15, e.g.), thus running 5 times a week for 3:44 total, I think that would do more to help bring your running speed up than anything else. And it would not change your total time commitment to exercise. I also think that, if you ramp up slowly and easily, and keep your pace for most of your runs easy, this will actually reduce your likelihood of injury.
The comment that I started here has blown up into its own whole post (on non-weekly training schedules), but I also wanted to mention that I do a very informal version of strides in my easy runs, simply running fast for a brief period when there’s a reason to (such as to get around pedestrians), or when I just feel like it.