How do you run faster?
Training helps, obviously. But believing you can do it and knowing how to pace yourself are huge.
After week 3 on Hal Higdon’s advanced 5K training program, and finally equipped with a GPS watch I’d borrowed from my son, my sister and I were startled to discover we’d just clocked a 9:35 mile four miles into what was supposed to be a “fast” 5-miler.
Look, I know that’s not “fast.” And in reality we could’ve gone faster – unlike some runs we’ve done on this program thus far, we weren’t in danger of puking at the end of this one. What was surprising to us is that we realized we’d been operating with a glass ceiling in regard to our potential speed.
In my sixth year as a runner, we’ve probably pursued a fairly typical midlife course in that we started out with the goal of running a 5K, then kept increasing distance without too much thought or expectation as to how much faster we could get.
For a while now we’ve thought of anything under 10 minutes per mile as “fast” for us. And as for anything under 9 minutes a mile … well, we’ve clocked the occasional 8:45 on the first mile of the Swiss Days Race 5K, but never thought it was anything we could sustain or possibly surpass.
Doing this training program “blind,” without a watch the first three weeks, may have been a blessing in disguise because we’ve just mostly gone as hard as we could for whatever distance we were supposed to run. On Saturday, if you would’ve told us to run at a 9:35 pace, we probably would’ve said, “Are you nuts?” But there it was. And it wasn’t even our best effort.
We didn’t hold that pace for the full 5 miles. We’ve still got a ways to go at figuring out how to pace ourselves. But we’re starting to believe we really can get faster, and we’ve still got 5 weeks of this training program to go, so it will be interesting to see what happens.
Here’s what happened on week 3 of the training plan:
Monday: 3-mile easy run. What I did: 1000-meter swim. (I’ve been making Mondays my swim day and fitting this run in elsewhere in the week.)
Tuesday: 6 x 400 @ mile pace. What I did: Attempted this workout with my sister on the River Greenway but still hadn’t come up with either “official” distances or a reliable timing mechanism. We did run 6 approximations of what was called for over 4 miles, and it felt like a great workout. But we’ve really got to get on this documentation thing.
Wednesday: Rest or easy run. What I did: 4 mile tempo run to pick up the car at the high school. The “tempo” portion was actually only 1.5 miles, but I shaved a minute off my previous best for that segment.
Thursday: 35-minute tempo run. What I did: Traci wanted to run hills so we decided to do this week’s 70-minute long slow run on the hills over by Vera Cruz. It was astonishing how easy this felt. We did six miles total, going out and back three times in two different directions, and I don’t even specifically remember going up the killer hill that last time – we were distracted about some topic of conversation, I guess.
Friday: Rest. What I did: Rest – for my legs, that is. Quick 800-meter swim to work my upper body..
Saturday: 5 miles fast. What I did: Traci and I weren’t sure how to mentally do a “fast” 5-miler – what pace should we aim for and would we freak out trying to hold it for 5 miles? So we decided to start out easy for half a mile and then keep accelerating from there. Our splits were 12:21, 10:25, 10:04, 9:36 and then 9:51 for a total time of 52:21. We learned a lot from this run can’t wait to try it again in a couple of weeks.
Sunday: 70-minute long slow run. What I did: I was going to do Monday’s easy 3 miles but I was surprised how dead my legs were after yesterday’s run. Instead I jogged 20 minutes or so and then walked another 20 minutes.
Total miles: 22
Cross training: 2 swim sessions for a total of 1800 meters. Definitely need to get that bike fixed!