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February 12, 2012 / fionarwbl

Running Fast Vs. Running Long

Last week I ran a PR which smashed my previous NYRR bib time and my fastest run time by 40 seconds. I hadn’t PR’d at the 4M distance since this summer close to the start of marathon training. During the summer, this was extremely frustrating. I felt like I was running a lot and not getting any faster. Looking back, there are good reasons for this.

I am not running fast here. And yet, this is one of the few running pictures where I don't look like I'm in the middle of a slow, painful walk.


Running long training runs is tough on the body and throwing in short races in June and July was even tougher on me. I had a lot of races in May and June of last year, and at each of my races, my goal was to beat 8:15. I only got down to 8:31, and by the end of summer racing season I was feeling like I would never get any faster, and this was the runner I was.

Let’s keep in mind that I’ve been running for 9 months at this point. A little dramatic and defeatist for such a novice runner, no?

I had also started doing speed work as part of my marathon training plan, but I was really struggling to hit the prescribed times during speed work and tempo runs. As soon as I stopped racing, I suddenly found that my tempo runs became much easier and I started hitting and then exceeding my suggested pace times. That was awesome, and I was feeling strong and good. I was beginning to feel like I might be finally improving, although with the marathon coming up, I wasn’t going to be entering short fall races to test this out. I ran the ING NYC Marathon in a solid time (for me), and decided that instead of being a fast runner, I was a long runner instead. I had kinda given up on doing much to improve on those short races.

And then a funny thing happened. As soon as I stopped marathon training, my short runs became much, much, faster, and even my steady-state runs have become faster, hovering at my marathon goal pace (9 min/mile) instead of the previous 9:30s I used to hover at. I had a hella training couple of weeks in December where I was running almost every day and doing yoga and other good strength stuff, and I put down some of my fastest tempo runs and mile repeats. This was after doing very little running between November and late December. I guess that all those 16 and 20 mile runs were tiring out my legs, and when I stopped, those legs could go faster. The question is, can I remain my current speed (fast for me), when I get into marathon training, or will I slow down again? Is there any way for a new runner to run fast and run long?

Does anyone else slow down during marathon training? Or experience speeding up once your done?



Leave a Comment
  1. PDX Running Chick / Feb 12 2012 8:19 pm

    I always slow down during marathon training. I am not as fast as you, my marathon pace is 10:15, but when I stop training I always run faster. I am trying a different approach this year. Last year I ran 2 marathons, 7 half marathons, a sprint duathlon, a 15k, a12k, 3 10ks and 2 5ks. It was too busy and I never felt like I was improving. This year my goals are different. 3 marathons, an endurance du and one ultra. That’s it. I’m thinking training for these events in a more controlled, less frantic state will help me improve my time. And if it doesn’t I am ok with that, I at least won’t feel so busy. Good luck to you!

  2. Kara / Feb 13 2012 1:57 am

    I definitely slow down during marathon training. I used to always just do long slow runs and had no variety in my workouts, so maybe that was the problem. When you run long and slow, that’s what your body adapts to so it can “work” how it needs to. When you start running faster, your body works to get better at running faster!

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