On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. For now. And, the slow-person loop.

So, last week I did some speedwork. Despite every single smart runner that I know telling me that I need to build up my mileage and that speedwork won't do me any good until my mileage base is higher, I wanted to do it. It's fun to pretend I'm a fast(er) runner for an hour. My justification? I was building my base while doing speedwork. I did the same distance (5m) I would have done that day, I just did it faster. In quarter-mile loops. (Yeah, yeah, 400m loops. Not trying to claim that extra 2 yards.)

But that's kind of a hypocritical mindset, no? One commenter, my imaginary friend the Angry Runner, mentioned that she'd been reviewing her Lydiard. She even wrote an entire blog post all about Lydiard and how "miles make champions" (complete with rather, um, crude drawings). Funny that: just two weeks ago I myself was passing on a link about how American runners need to run more in order to get faster.

I get it. I will be running more and I will leave the speedwork to the side - for now.

However, in terms of running more... is it just that simple? To some extent, I get caught in what I'm calling the slow-person loop: I want to run faster, so I need to run more. But the fact that I do not run fast keeps me from being able to run more. In other words, I only have so many hours to run (I'm not trying to use the old whine that "I don't have time;" I'm just trying to be realistic about my schedule). Let's say I have about 8 hours a week to exercise, give or take a bit given my laziness. If I were to run 8 hours/week, I'd run about 45mpw at my current 10-11 minute mile. If I could bring that down to an 8 minute mile, I could run 60mpw.

There are no shortcuts to getting out of the slow person loop or I would have found them like a decade ago. Now, I do realize that I'm NOT maximizing my time - between laziness and excuses, I don't run as much as I have time for - and probably what I should be doing IS maximizing my time. In other words, use the 10 minutes I spend downloading my Garmin data running. Get more sleep so I can run more.  Eat better food so my runs are more productive (and so I don't get the runs - oh, man, I can't believe I made a pun so low-brow). Take my morning tea in the shower or on the subway so I don't spend an hour sitting at my computer "checking my email" before I leave for work. That sort of thing.

So, bottom line: no more speedwork (for now). Maybe this summer I'll spend some time trying to lower my 5k PR, in which case speedwork might be more efficacious. Until then, maybe some hills. But no crazy bounding up the hills.

Any suggestions?


  1. You know, not sure if I agree with that. I've actually started reducing my running to 2-3 days a week and am getting in only about 8-12 miles per week (eek - yeah, that sounds really low), but I make the miles that I do really count. It's speed work for the most part and one day of a long slower run. And my times have definitely improved. That mixed with cross training has made all the difference. But again, I'm not "in love" with running, so I am fine dropping off a few days a week to do something else.

    But I think that different methods can definitely work!!!

  2. idk i think speedwork has a place in every workout. i have issues with faster vs more running too. i def think you should do yassos at the very least. they'll help you get stronger and you're still getting in miles!

  3. lolz @ crude. IT'S TRUE.

    I think maximizing the time you have is a huge issue, and I know I've run into it myself. The key, I think, is to find creative ways to get your legs moving. Fartlek? Ideal. Rather than running 6 miles, think of it as 2-3-1, with three miles with random pick ups. Or however you want to break it down. Or targeted pace runs. You can still work on running FASTER without short intervals, lactate threshold stuff.

    And hill running. Always a plus.

  4. There's so much I want to say in response to this post. I wish that Lydiard guy had been a better writer.

    Basically, there's no such thing as this slow-person loop you speak of. The aerobic training benefits of running for 8-hours a week are pretty much the same for a fast person (who undoubtedly will cover more miles in that 8-hours) as they are for a slower person. That's why there's some wisdom in measuring your training in terms of time rather than miles.

    Keep at it. You're running more than I am lately.

  5. A quick perusal of the comments revealed that everyone has already said what I wanted to say. But look at me, commenting anyway! I've been experimenting with the 3 high-quality runs a week thing, supplemented by high volume cross training for aerobic base. It's all the same to your body aerobically but the quality work (supposedly, I haven't seen whether it's true yet) keeps your running muscles on point. I bother to write all of this to point out that the speedwork can't possibly hurt and may actually help if it means developing quicker leg turnover, etc. Good luck!

  6. Thanks, all. I love the responses. I'm still not headed to the FIRST route, no matter how hard you all try to sell me on it. But I do love seeing the crazy progress. Mostly, though, I'm wondering why Mike hasn't been running as much.

  7. I think that as long as you've got a good solid base, you can get some benefit from speedwork. That said, I think that strength training will also buy you a lot. But, if you've got the itch to go out and run fast once a week? Do it. It definitely won't hurt you.