Long run, fast run

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.

Speedwork

I do almost no speedwork. Especially early in the season, my entire focus is on building some endurance—getting some daylight between my short runs and my long runs. Still, once I’ve been running for several weeks, I eventually reach the point where I feel like running faster, and at that point I figure some speedwork is in order.

I almost never run intervals. I was never a running during high school or college, so I never had a coach coming up with interval workouts for me to do. That’s good, in that I never developed an aversion to them. But I also have no first-hand experience with them being a successful way to build speed.

My version of speedwork is what the running books call a “tempo run.” I run the same route that I’d use for an easy run, but instead of running at an easy pace, I run pretty hard.

I do my easy runs these days on the same 1.5 mile loop that was as far as I could run a few months ago. Back in March I was doing these runs in 18 or 19 minutes. In May I broke under 18 minutes. Yesterday, for the second time this month, I broke 17 minutes.

I actually clobbered 17 minutes, so I’m within striking distance of breaking 16 minutes, but I’m in no hurry to actually do so. I no longer think of being able to run fast as a capability that I’m striving to build. I just run because it’s fun. And when I think it’ll be fun to run fast, I run fast. (But, you know, not very fast.)