Can you run too fast?

Marathon training is hard for non-runners to comprehend.  Even harder when you say you’re disappointed because you ran too fast.

I knew training for my first marathon was going to be tough and that’s why I decided to run and raise funds for African Children’s Fund.  Despite being an avid runner this was going to push me beyond my half marathon comfort zone.

Since December I have been increasing the mileage and recorded a whole heap of “personal firsts” – essentially setting the benchmark for future “personal best” attempts.  It has been a superb journey so far and I’ve really got a sense of running perspective.

Prior to December, I’d never run further than 13.1 miles and 10 miles was a long run.  I smile with pride when I hear myself referring to “just” 10 miles.  To think that I’ve completed two 20 mile races and, this weekend, coupled a 10 mile marathon-paced run with a 17 mile long slow run – wow!  It feels great to be regularly running 26, 27 or 28 miles in a weekend when last year I wasn’t covering that distance in a whole week.  It goes to show what you can do when you put your mind to something.

So, this marathon training is a piece of cake then?

Not quite.  I’ve found a new weakness that will sound strange to some runners and outrageously bizarre to non-runners.  To be honest, it’s pretty bonkers even from my point of view:

I’m running too fast.

Or maybe I should say: I’m not running slow enough.

“WTF?” I hear you all cry!  Surely that’s the whole point – going as fast as you can over the distance in front of you.  But no; training has many different facets and it’s not about every session being completed “eyeballs out”.  In fact, with endurance events like the marathon, there should be a much bigger focus on training the body to use fat which requires workouts at lower heart rates.

It's not about running every session "eyeballs out"
It’s not about running every session “eyeballs out”

So let’s look at my “disappointments”:

  • Finishing the Gloucester 20 race twenty minutes faster than the “personal first” I set just 3 weeks before at the Bramley 20
  • Running an inspiring 10 miles following the last section of the London Marathon course almost 30 seconds a mile quicker than my intended marathon pace
  • Completing the Banbury 15 race after a 2 mile warm up at just 15 seconds a mile slower than my intended marathon pace

All sounds awesome?  Well it isn’t.  I need to rediscover some of the discipline I found after bombing at the Great North Run.  If I carry on running too hard and too fast I’m going to be, at best, exhausted or at worst, injured.

Here's my Gloucester 20 kilometre splits & course elevation

Here’s my Gloucester 20 kilometre splits & course elevation – it was supposed to be a LSR!

I only need to remember some of Martin Yelling’s advice from the #extramile day: you need to make it to the startline, to finish a marathon.

I know all this.  It makes logical sense and I’m a logical, sensible person.  So why is it so hard to be disciplined?

One thing that I’ve learnt about myself is that whilst a race may make for a more interesting long slow run, for me, it doesn’t make for a slow long slow run.  With the following footsteps pushing me forward and the kaleidoscope of club vests in front attracting me like a moth to a flame, I just get caught up in the moment and go too quick.

It’s hard not to get carried away – I’m running longer and feeling great!  At the time it feels exciting but in hindsight it’s unnerving; I’m generally a conservative runner, not taking risks and running within myself yet I find an eagerness creeps in to push and prod the realms of possibility.  I’m even starting to question my target race pace – could I go quicker?  I love that I’ve built a confidence in running bigger distances but I’m worried that confidence could easily stray into complacency or arrogance which could be very damaging.  I’ve got to remember this is my first time.

Potentially it’s a positive change in my training attitude and perhaps shows I can push harder but this isn’t just any sign-up-on-the-day race.  This is the almost-impossible-to-get-a-place London Marathon.  It’s my first ever marathon and I don’t want to cock it up so I need to keep calm and slow down.

Calm down dear!
Calm down dear!

Even purely focussing on heart rate (rather than pace) hasn’t entirely worked.

My training means I’m now able to go quicker at lower heart rates but I still find myself justifying allowing my heart rate to creep a little higher than I may have planned which in turns allows the pace to push up.

It’s even more ridiculous when you think that my body has been scientifically proven to be a poor fat burner, back in my lab test, instead preferring to feast on carbs!

The races aren’t all bad though.

They have provided a platform for trialling mid-race refuelling and, more importantly, taking on water from on-course stations.  It’s also helped to work out what kit I need before and after the race.

With less than 5 weeks to go until race day I only have two big training weekends left before my taper begins.  I need to make them count in the right way.  I need to be disciplined.  I need to stick to the plan.  I NEED TO TRUST THE TRAINING.

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5 thoughts on “Can you run too fast?”

  1. For best results, only 20% of training runs should be completed at fast racing pace. The rest should be slow and intervals. Sorry if you already knew that though. 😁

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