Week one of training for the Portland Marathon is successfully completed! Now just 17 more weeks and hundreds of training miles to go!
The first week of the Hansons Marathon Method (advanced plan) consists solely of easy runs. There are no speed intervals, no goal pace workouts, and not even a long run. Just six days of 6-8 mile runs done at 1-2 minutes per mile slower than marathon pace.
Honestly, for me, that posed a bit of a struggle. While I thoroughly enjoy easy runs, I am not used to running at such an easy pace. Lately, my easy runs, which I run by effort, have averaged around an 8:20-8:40/mile, which falls within my easy pace range based on the McMillan Calculator. According to the Hansons plan, I should now pace my easy runs at 9:00-10:00/mile.
Why so slow? First, the Hansons Marathon Method prescribes such an easy pace so that you do not burn yourself out, get injured, or suffer from overtraining. The plan begins at 37 miles and peaks at 63 miles per week, which means you are running a lot. You simply cannot do too much volume and too high intensity; if one increases, the other must decrease. Even elites and crazy-fast Kenyans train that way, as Matt Fitzgerald demonstrates in his 80/20 Running. Most of your miles should be easy miles.
Running at an easy pace also teaches you to control your running. If there’s one thing I’ve heard about running a marathon, it is that patience and control are essential for race day success. If you go out faster than your goal pace, you will hit a wall around mile 20 and want to crawl your way to the finish line. The secret to marathon success, as I have read time and time again, is to control your pace from the start. Don’t get caught up in the adrenaline of race day. Don’t decide to keep up with an obviously faster runner. Don’t try to bank time at the start in case you can slow down later.
When you do most of your runs at an easy pace, especially in the early weeks of marathon training when there are no demanding workouts to build up fatigue in your legs, you are practically control. It’s a mental muscle, and each time you slow down when your legs want to go faster or your mind is telling you that you can pick up the pace, you strengthen that muscle.
Did I go as slow as I should have this week? To be honest, not for every run, but I practiced running slower and averaged slower paces for every run than I have since in a long time. I found myself looking at my Garmin more to make sure I was running easy enough.
As I get used to running slower than I’m used to on my easy runs, I recall the wisdom of two of my favorite running bloggers, Miss Zippy (Amanda) and Tina Muir. Last week, Amanda wrote about not getting greedy with our running. During race training, it becomes too easy to get greedy and run too fast. It becomes too tempting to think, “If I can run faster today, then I will run faster on race day.” The problem, however, is that this mentality leads us to give our all to our training, so that come race day, we have nothing left to give, nothing deeper left to dig, and run a sub-par performance compared to how we trained.
Running easy, when I post my workouts to social media and disclose my times here on the blog, also means having confidence in myself as a runner. If I run 9:00-10:00 minute miles for half of my weekly miles, there will be people who will look at that and deem me to be a “slow” runner. It doesn’t matter, however, if I run slow, especially if it will help me reach my personal goals. As Tina said in a post on easy running:
“Yet over and over, on our recovery days we end up running too fast. It all comes down to confidence. When it is lacking, that is when we look for reassurance within our recovery days. When we are feeling strong, and believe we are in better shape than ever before, we do not feel the need for proving anything on recovery days.”
And it’s true. We all know of people who are incredibly fast in their day-to-day workouts, posting Garmin selfies of crazy-fast miles onto Instagram and Facebook. Some of those runners (I’m not naming names, but just thinking generally) then have significantly slower times in their races.
Our bodies need the recovery that easy runs give them. It’s not about a contest of running each run faster than the last or posting speedy paces to social media every day. It’s about smart training and care for our bodies.
At the end of this training cycle, it matters more to me that I run steady 8:00 minute miles for the Portland Marathon than it will if I ran 8:00 miles during my easy runs. After all, an easy run is just one of dozens of runs during any given training cycle.
Also, you can see my type-A side emerges here. If the plan calls for a certain pace range, my workout success is assessed based on how closely I paced myself to that prescription!
Monday: AM: 6 miles easy, 8:50/mile. PM: Core work and bodyweight strength training.
Tuesday: 6 miles easy, 8:50/mile. I ran within a second of the previous days’ run on the same path. I want that consistency for more often for easy runs!
Wednesday: AM: 5 miles easy, treadmill, 9:00/mile, 675 ft vertical gain, 0-7% incline, followed by about 5 or 10 minutes of foam rolling. I’ll be sharing this hill workout later this week! PM: Core work.
Thursday: AM: 6 miles easy, 8:36/mile. I tried to run easy by effort and learned this is why I need to monitor my pace for even easy runs. PM: 10 minutes of yoga.
Friday: AM: 6 miles easy, some hills, 8:48/mile average pace.
Saturday: 8 miles easy, 8:27/mile average pace.
Sunday: Active rest: a few miles of walking around downtown Seattle.
37 miles total for the week.
Questions of the Day:
Do you run your easy runs by effort or by pace?
How was your week in running? What was your best run?