Will slow running drive you insane?

For five weeks now I have been running slow. This marks the halfway point in my quest for building a strong base before the start of the next marathon training program. In some ways the weeks have flown by and in other ways it seems this will go on forever. At this mid-term, here are a few things I’ve learned:

If you aspire to an even, steady pace, spend 5 weeks or more running slow. During the first couple of weeks, it was unbearably hard to keep myself at a target pace. I set as my goal a pace that was about one minute slower than my current marathon pace and allowed myself 15 seconds on either side of the minute for fluctuation.

Maybe this seems like a fairly large give-and-take for some folks. For me, it wasn’t uncommon to find myself running faster than my typical marathon pace on what should be a long, slow Sunday run. So, keeping within a 30 second threshold, plus or minus, was a victory.

Slowly as the days went along, I noticed I was keeping the pace more and more steady until eventually, my pace has remained within single digits of my goal pace day in and day out


Run Slow, Build Strength. At times over the past few years I have assumed a “run every other day” program. It happened because of a 60 second conversation with another runner on the streets of downtown Chicago many years ago.

You can pick up a quick conversation sometimes when you run alongside someone and say to yourself later, “How on earth did we end up talking about that?” This man told me he had been running every other day for 20 years. I don’t know how that came up but his comment has stuck with me.

So when recovering from a race, or an injury, I ran every other day until I started feeling better. When I would finally add a back-to-back run to my schedule, it became immediately obvious this was a step up in the level of difficulty. Base building has provided the same result.

Even though there is one slightly longer run, running comparable daily mileage throughout the week puts a different stress on the body than that of the short/medium/long runs and  easy day/hard day training that is more typical for us runners. I’ve liked it and I have begun to feel stronger already.

Run Slow for Recovery. After my last race, there was only one rest day before this period of base building began. Historically, that’s been unheard of for me since most of my injuries have occurred in the weeks immediately following a race.

This fear of injury has made me prone to taking one or two weeks of rest after every race. I held my breath through the first couple of weeks of base building, but all was well.

I have read that sometimes running slow is better for a tired, achy body, and even some injuries, than lying on the couch. Running slow has been like active recovery. With the exception of a few tight muscles late last week, I’ve survived (knock on wood) and lying on the couch is still for that afternoon nap I can’t seem to live without.

If you are naturally a slow runner, don’t despair. Let me give you 3 reasons why:

  1. You will naturally gain a little speed as you run more mileage. If you never want to run more mileage, don’t worry about it. Run slow and be happy.
  2. if you want more speed, you can always do speed work. But, then you may have to work to run slow again. No matter which speed, there will always be work to do.
  3. you look beautiful/handsome running slow. Have you ever seen the short distance runners on TV? Even their faces jiggle up and down? Running slow is much more elegant.

And so, now you see that running slow is a good thing for many reasons…..and it will not make you totally insane. I promise.

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