Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

Focusing on the Easy

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you already know that for someone who sings the praises of marathoning for the masses and life in the back of the pack, I spend an awful lot of time whining about being slow. In my last post for instance, was I upset because I was bedridden for two straight days and then lived in a Kleenex box for the next 10? No. I was upset because I thought my 12-mile run was too slow.

What is wrong with this picture?? What happened to the sane, rational person who would say, “Hey, I ran 12 miles today. And that’s pretty awesome!” (And moreover, “I’m good enoughI’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me!”)

The idea for this post, and indeed the idea for my last week of training, was born out of some rumination on my previous assertion that no one I know does their long runs 1-2 minutes slower than marathon goal pace (MGP). I got to thinking…why not? After all, my coaches at Rogue are saying to do it. My beloved Runner’s World says to do it. Even really big-name coaches like Greg McMillan say to do it. (I personally apologize for the horrific music you’ll hear if you click that link. Hit mute, because the articles are worth it.) And who am I to think I know better than all those people?

To check if I was really being too obsessive about time, I decided to do something I never thought I would. I emailed Coach Kara from my online training program with a question. See, long slow runs only work if you’re also doing faster runs to maintain speed. On tap for Tuesday’s run was 8 miles total with 4 miles at MGP. Given our rather rigid–by American standards–German schedule these days, I knew that if I didn’t want to do this run at midnight, I was going to have to run to work. Which means that dang 500 ft elevation gain. So, I sent Kara a rather angsty email:

Hi Kara, 

Hope you’re enjoying the New Year! I just had a quick question about the MGP run on the schedule this week. To get the 8 miles in, I’ll likely run to work. The route has some pretty significant hills, with a total elevation gain of about 500 ft. I’ve never been fantastic on hills, and my marathon is flat. Should I still aim to hold my marathon goal pace, or allow some room for the hills?

Thanks in advance!


Her response was of the short-but-sweet variety. “Keep the terrain in mind. Run marathon effort, not pace.” 

(You might want to print and frame that. If I never email Coach Kara again, that advice is worth about $200.)

So, this last week, I decided to really trust the program. If the schedule said “Easy”, I would run easy. If the schedule said to follow my 7-mile “Medium-Long Run” with strides–horrible little sprints that have a purpose of reminding your legs they can run fast and your stomach that you had oatmeal this morning–I would actually do the strides. And most importantly, as long as I was within 2 minutes of MGP (for me, 10:45) on a run marked “Easy”, then I would be happy.

The results were nothing short of miraculous. I floated through all my runs at 9:00-mile pace!

Okay, no, not at all. The results were everything short of miraculous. I ran all my runs around 11:30 pace. BUT, I finally felt okay with that. Instead of just “being slow”, now I was “following the program”. In fact, after receiving an international shipment of the last two months’ RWs (thanks Mom!), I even went all hippy about it and followed their advice to adopt a mantra to get me through tough parts of a run. Granted, they were proposing ideas like, “Strength! Power! Aneurysm!”, but I found that mentally chanting “Light and easy, light and easy,” as I cruised up long hills really did make the effort feel easier. 

And thank God I had these revelations–and accompanying ascent to running yogi-ness–when I did, because Rogue just about tried to kill us last week. 8 miles, 5 miles, 7 miles, 14 miles, 5 miles? Seriously? We are 15 WEEKS away from the marathon and I am on the Beginner program!!

But then I take a deep, yogic breath and remind myself that the program works. Lots of miles now means a lot less pain later. So tomorrow, as scheduled, I’ll head out for another 6 miles. Light and easy, of course. (Om.)

One comment on “Focusing on the Easy

  1. Emily
    January 28, 2011

    I love it! I am going to have to try "light and easy" for my 22 this weekend on the austin marathon course. last hard week before the race, so maybe I will figure things out sooner rather than later :)I can't (well can) believe they have you running so many miles so early! One thing I noticed about the Austin group is that it seems to be less miles than the summer plan, but more "up" weekends than the 2 up 1 down we had over the summer.Keep the posts coming!!

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This entry was posted on January 24, 2011 by in mantras, speed, time.
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