Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Long Run Pace

I've been thinking a lot about my long run pace.  I've seen various ideas about what you should run your long run in when training for a marathon: 30-45 seconds slower all the way up to 2 minutes slower than what you think your marathon pace is.

Today was no exception as Maggie posted a link on facebook to a blog from Jenny Hadfield who is a runner, author and married to The Penguin (John Bingham).  For quick reference, John is a runner and author who didn't start running until his 40's (if I remember correctly).  Anyway, Jenny wrote a blog post about "How to Calculate Your Long Run Pace".  In this post, Jenny writes that you should run based on how you feel, not based on numbers.  So one day, due to heat an humidity, you may feel running a long run at 10:30 pace is difficult, whereas the next week, you may feel perfectly comfortable running your long run at a 9:45 pace.  Long run pace is supposed to be an easy run where you can hold a conversation and is meant to build up the miles and time on your feet as well as let you test out fuel methods.  Kind of makes sense to me, actually.

Some people may think, "Amanda, you have run 2 marathons already.  You should know what you are supposed to do by now!"  Actually, I'm still learning.  It's no secret my last marathon did NOT go as well as I had hoped.  With all the injuries and with all my "mistakes" I made along the way, this time I'm trying to do things differently.  Smarter.  For both marathons, I trained with my 10 minute pace group, even if I didn't always hold the 10 minute pace.  For the first marathon, I trained with the Yankee Runners (through CARA) and met Kelly.  Kelly and I pretty much stuck together the entire training season because some of the members of the group where running too fast for us to maintain and some ran slower.  By running with Kelly, I was never alone (which always helped).  And neither one of us really had to wait for the other.  Most of the time, we always ran the same pace.  Now Kelly is a speed demon runner and well, never mind.  She isn't training for the marathon anyway. lol.
Back to the topic.  This year I was unsure what pace to run for my long runs.  Now that my injuries are cleared up (although I still monitor them to make sure I don't re-injure) and I've started taking care of my anemia issues, I'm running better.  However, with all the down time I had and the slower paces I was running, my pace definitely suffered.  I'm slowly building it back up.  So when I started training for this 3rd marathon in Chicago, I wasn't sure if I should run my long runs with my 10:00 pace group.  I was thinking my long runs should probably be a 10:30 pace (my short runs are between 9:30-10:00 on average). 
I had a discussion with my pace leader about it and she said to try it out with her and fall back if needed.  I missed the first two weeks of training because of other runs, so the week I finally met up with the group was the cutback week of 5 miles.  I can do 5 miles at a 10:00, not much of a problem.  Last week was 9 miles.  I decided once more to go with the 10:00 group for the 9 miles just to see how it goes and then make a final decision on pace. 
First of all, our 10:00 group is so large that they now have to split it up into intermediate (ones running longer miles) and novice (running the normal miles).  So some of my friends and my favorite pace leader are running in a separate group from me anyway!  Although, I realized I could run with them for half of it and turn around a little early.  Anyway, the 9 miles was a bit of a struggle at that pace.  It was hot and HUMID (87%).  I felt the pace leader was running a little fast (in these conditions, they should slow the pace a little).  I made the pace (or close to it) for the first 6 miles.  The last 3 miles were a struggle and I walked twice.  Luckily this week I had someone that I knew would be sticking with me even if I walked a little bit, but she isn't a regular at this group.
I shouldn't be running my long runs to just "be able to keep up" with the group, or be thinking that I can "make it until the next water stop".  I should be running comfortably.  And in this heat, a 10:00 minute pace for a long run is far from comfortable.  Plus, if I fall back from the group, chances are I'll be alone.  And when you have 6 miles left from a 16 miler and you have to finish alone and you are hot and tired and crabby, it would be miserable.
So what I think I will do this week with my long run of 10 miles is to start with the 10:30 pace group.  I'd rather finish stronger alone if I'm feeling good and end up running ahead than finish alone from the other group because I'm behind and tired.
Plus the pace leader of this group was someone that ran my first 16 miler with me because I couldn't run with the group.  You can read about it here.  So I have a soft spot for this pace leader Jim anyway.
I'm going to try 10:30 this week and see how it goes.  The heat has been brutal this summer (today is the 20th day this year in the 90's or above, and average for this time is normal 5 days).  So it's going to be hot ALL summer.  Better get used to it now!  I'll let you know how the 10:30 pace goes after this Saturday.  I miss my friends from the other pace group, but I'm training for a marathon, not going out to eat pizza.  Hm....pizza sounds good actually.
Speaking of weather...what is up with these crazy storms!!  100 degree temps, then 100 mile wind gusts and hail.  Thousands of people are without power.  My parents didn't have power for about half a day but I know other people are still without power.  I'm fortunate and generally don't have much problem with losing my power (knock on wood).
Have a great 4th!!  We get to leave work early today and have off tomorrow.  Very nice!


  1. Oh Amanda.. I wasn't always a speed demon! I haven't been training for a marathon so I've been able to focus on speed. When I eventually go out there and run another marathon, you can bet your butt I'll be running with the 10:00 group! I am still chasing that 4:20 goal that I hope to make some day...

    I think that adjusting your pace to 10:30 on hot days is smart. The humidity affects different folks in different ways. You're right though, you should feel the pace is easy and that you're not pushing it. I'm interested to hear how things go this weekend!

  2. I trained at 10:30 for the last marathon, and i think it was the smartest thing i ever did. I felt very comfortable and chatty at that pace, but it allowed me to toe the line of my disasterous first and triumphant second marathons without feeling burnt out. I am in the 9:30 group now, and already feeling burnt out. I think i am switching back to 10:30. My goal is a 4:15 for dublin......

  3. I'm running at a 10:30 pace this summer and it's been comfortable so far (max w/ group has been 11 miles so far). The heat & humidity definitely take a lot out of you, and I think the idea of doing it a bit easier is how you're supposed to take it! (rather than not having anything left in the tank).
    I'm actually toying around w/ dropping a bit more when things get longer if we are still in summer. Oh wait, we'll still be in summer.

  4. Even though I run with the 9:30 group, my overall pace last week was 10:15. I don't stop my watch at water stops or intersections, but I think there are a few folks in my group who run closer to 9:10-9:15 (including one of the pace leaders). I try not to get sucked into their pace. Usually I finish with at least a couple other people (who by the way they are panting/taking walk breaks should probably drop back to a different group), but maybe once we get to the longer distances, I might drop back to the 10 minute group.

  5. Thanks for the comments. It helps to hear what others have to say on the topic. I like my 10 min pace group but I have to do what's best for me with the heat this summer!!