The other day I was going for a nice easy run and I looked at my watch and I didn’t like what it said. Because it said over 7 minutes. Which is such a ridiculous, arbitrary meaningless number. But it does make sense why I have that reaction to it. I worked really hard to get under those 7 minutes. And then I worked really hard to get under 6 (for some of my runs). So it can be easy when I’m on a long run to allow that kind of thing to plague me. To think that the run is no good because it’s too slow.
The truth is, that is my ego talking it’s not science.
I like the science of running. Actually that’s a lie. I love it. It is my favourite part. So if I read somewhere that you have to do this run this way and that run that way, I’m going to research it to see what the science behind it is. Because there’s a lot of junk science floating around. There are also a lot of approaches to other sports that just don’t translate in running. One of those ideas is that the best way to improve is to run flat out all the time. Or that if you do a run and it’s really slow, it’s somehow of no benefit to you. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact is that to run something below your ability on purpose requires you to put your ego to one side a little bit. Sometimes that is hard. Which is why when I do my long runs in 8 minute km or 7 minute km I take a photo of it so people might see it and know that is what a long run is supposed to look like. It’s not supposed to be fast.
The slow run does a few things:
It builds your aerobic fitness
It gets distance in your legs with minimal risk of injury
It increases your speed at the same effort level over time.
It conserves your speed for speed workouts that will actually benefit you like intervals and tempos.
If you don’t run them slow enough, you get none of those benefits. And for the most part what stands between you and a slow enough long run is a bit of misplaced ego. Save that ego for your fast runs, then it actually comes in handy.