Let’s say you want to run a sub-4 hour marathon, and know your goal marathon pace is 9:00 per mile.
Many training plans advise your long runs be done at a pace about 60-90 seconds per mile slower, i.e. do your long runs at a 10:00-10:30 pace.
While this is not a bad idea, it’s rather difficult to do if you’re also not paying any mind to the general pace of your regular midweek easy runs. While you want those runs to be low-pressure, it may not be a bad idea to also have the same “pace goal” in mind for your regular midweek runs.
If the pace is practiced everyday in 3-8 mile chunks, then trying to do it for 2-3 hours becomes less daunting.
I understand the idea of these runs being “recovery runs” where you don’t want to put yourself under any pressure other than to run.
If you don’t struggle with focus and don’t struggle to maintain pace in a marathon, then sure, don’t worry about it. Just run.
If you don’t have a pace or time goal, then of course don’t worry about it. Just cover the distance or time required. Relax.
However, there are two camps that could benefit greatly from focusing on an “easy pace” in regular runs. I just brought up the first group: People looking to nail a time goal who also have a pace in mind for easy long runs.
But there’s a second group who also could benefit: People who tend to do their “easy” runs too hard or too fast. People who do every run at a more aggressive moderate or greater effort. These people already struggle to do “easy” runs, probably already run their “marathon pace” every single day as a result, and could probably benefit from trying to hold a slower pace.
By making themselves run a minute or so slower in their regular runs, not to mention their long runs, such people help their bodies recover better. They certainly don’t hurt their training at goal pace. In fact, the lower effort gives them a more focused aerobic workout that isn’t adding extra anaerobic or neuromuscular stress.
If you already struggle with burnout or stress during training and thinking about this stresses you even more, it’s possibly better for you not to worry about this on regular runs. Just take it easy and relax on these runs as best you can, since that’s probably what you need most right now.
But for many trying to hit a goal time or rein themselves in, this sort of focused effort on easy regular runs could be a positive difference maker, and help you get more out of your everyday runs.