Tag Archives: pacing

Three Valuable Tips for Beginning Runners

1. You should run as slow as you can

You absolutely need to run slow. Slower than you think. Run as slow as you need to in order to keep running. As a newcomer to running, you will struggle to run for any amount of distance, and chances are likely you will quit early unless you first focus on running far as slowly as you can get away with.

A parallel: Competitive walking has a rigid set of rules that constitute what exactly constitutes a walk, and it’s a good guide for the minimum of what you need to do for your movement to qualify as a run.

A key point in race walking is that your back foot must be on the ground until your front foot plants on the ground.

Conversely, if your back foot comes up before your front foot impacts the ground, then you are technically running. See how slowly you can get away with safely doing this, and you may be surprised how slowly you are allowed to run.

2. Take each step as soft and easy as you can

Another key reason you want to run slow is to make it easier for you to run without having to hit the ground hard.

A telltale sign that a runner is outrunning his/her normal capabilities is that their feet hit the ground hard and loud. This isn’t just aesthetically displeasing, but it’s not healthy. You’re jarring your joints, muscles and ligaments all the way up the chain from your feet up into your core, and risking long term injury. In fact, this is largely where common runner ailments like shin splints and IT band pain come from. You basically just stress those parts of your body until they hurt.

In dance and some theatre circles, performers get taught how to step as softly as they can. There’s usually no real method taught to this, but performers often work at it until they develop the locus of control to step softly. I guess it incidentally helped that I studied theatre and dance before becoming a serious runner, as learning this inadvertently, eventually helped me develop better running form.

But you don’t need to dance or do theatre to learn to run soft and easy. Stand up. Find some open space. Take a step forward as softly as you can. Take another step forward as softly as you can. Repeat. Take your time and relax while repeating this. You may find that your body naturally moves and adjusts with you. Eventually your body just knows how to move to comfortably make it work. It also probably feels silly to do, but work with it.

Now try to do it quickly, but stay as relaxed as possible. Do it consistently and quickly enough, and all of a sudden you’re running that way. It may not be fast or intense, but it works.

The home run trot that I previously advocated is basically just this. It’s exactly what baseball players are doing. They’re just running as easy and comfortable as possible. Their feet are definitely not slamming into the ground.

3. Eat something with protein within an hour after every run

Recovery is something even experienced runners aren’t great at doing. Most don’t think at all about taking in nutrition within two hours of running, or realize that the half hour after running is a valuable window for refueling the body.

While carbohydrates may be valuable for glycogen restoration, what you do need for sure is protein. You just did a bit of damage to your muscles, and they need protein to rebuild. Consume at least 15-30g of protein.

I’m not saying you should pig out. Just eat a protein bar, some nuts or seeds, or drink a glass of milk, if nothing else. If you are in fact planning to eat a meal like breakfast or dinner right after running, great. Mission accomplished.

I can get into all the science as to why processed junk doesn’t help you as much as whole food, but in a nutshell you’re better off eating something healthy. If you’re in a bind and options are limited, then eat what you must. But given the option, try to eat whole foods in as close to their natural form as you can.

How well you bounce back between workouts is largely a function of how you recover. What you eat or drink soon after the run matters.

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Quick thoughts on considering training volume by time rather than by mileage

I finished October with only 87.8 miles, thanks largely to the two weeks I took off following the Chicago Marathon. I’m already back up to about 25 miles per week as I ease back to a larger mileage load… the difference mostly being that I’m taking days off, rather than running shorter distances. I’ve already knocked out a few 8-9 milers since getting back on the road.

We look at elites and their crazy mileage loads, but it may make more sense to look at their weekly training in terms of time spent running each week.

Matt Fitzgerald actually lists runs in the training plans in his book 80/20 Running by time spent running, rather than by mileage. He’ll list regular runs at 40 minutes, 45 minutes, etc, reserving mileage recommendations exclusively for long runs.

Though like most I track my runs primarily by mileage, I do keep an eye on my overall time spent running. In fact, if you use the Electric Blues Daniels Tables, you’ll find yourself gauging workout intensities by time spent more often than by mileage.

Back to elites. Some may aspire to run the 100+ mile weeks that elites run, but many may make the mistake of blindly aiming for that mileage, even though they lack the speed of those elites. The result is they spend far too much time each week running, if they don’t burn out or get injured first.

Consider that an elite who can average a 5 minute pace running a marathon probably does his/her easy runs at something like a 6 minute mile, which is far faster than the vast majority of runners. Thus, if this runner were to run 100 miles, they could knock all of them out in fewer than 10 hours of weekly training. A typical runner might be able to log 65 miles in the same time frame.

An elite runner doing a 12 mile run for their typical run can probably knock it out in around 75 minutes. You or I trying to run 12 miles might take a couple hours.

So, one thing to bear in mind when setting the elites as a benchmark is that their high mileage is a function of their superior pace. If they ran closer to a 9 minute mile, there’s no way they’d log 100+ mile weeks.

As you go to establish training mileage goals, it might make sense to take stock of your own pace, and whether that pace makes the needed training time realistic.


I’m scratching the surface on this idea as it’s late, and it probably will get a more substantial treatment down the road. But it’s worth considering.

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Strategic approaches to racing the 10 Miler

While not as popular elsewhere, the 10 Mile race distance is somewhat popular in the Midwest, especially in Chicagoland. Chicago alone has two major 10 Mile races, the Lakefront 10 in April (my favorite race) and the Soldier Field 10 in May. Several others (Quarryman Challenge and Fort2Base) are annually held in the suburbs with high turnout. There’s also the 15K (9.32 miles), the close metric cousin of the 10 Miler, and the Hot Chocolate 15K is another popular Chicago race held in November.

Because the distance is not popular like the 5K, 10K, half and full marathon distances, there’s not a lot of strategic material on how to race the distance. The next shortest popular distance is the 10K, which is over 6K shorter. Most runners approach it similar to a half marathon, even though the distance is about 5K shorter and experienced runners are probably leaving a bit in the tank.

What Makes the 10 Miler Different:

The 10 Mile race distance sits between the 10K (6.2mi) and Half Marathon distance. Elite runners can race each distance equally well (though obviously such runners will focus on one versus the other).

Most recreational runners however feel a distinct difference between the effort each distance requires, and the 10 Miler falls squarely between both.

The 10K is the longest distance most can “race” without it feeling like a substantial endurance challenge. The Half Marathon requires substantial aerobic endurance to be able to suitably race it rather than just run and survive it. Some runners even “bonk” at the end of half marathons, even though a well trained runner should have enough glycogen and aerobic endurance to run well beyond 13-14 miles without bonking.

The 10 Miler just begins to tap the bottom of the jar of most runners’ aerobic endurance, and that’s if you run it wisely. A runner who goes hard as they would in a 10K will end up gassed in the final 2-3 miles. The 10 Miler is the shortest race distance at which one needs to pace their running as they need to in a Half Marathon.

Still, you can go a bit harder in a 10 Miler than you need to in a Half Marathon. The ideal 10 Mile race pace is right below where your lactate threshold would be, the point where you body produces muscle-slowing lactate faster than it can process and clear that lactate. The longer you spend past the lactate threshold, the quicker you tire and the quicker you hit your wall.

Your ideal 10K pace in fact is at or just above lactate threshold. Anything faster (5K, mile time trial, all out sprints) is well above it. The reason runners survive and thrive in those efforts is that those efforts are typically a lot shorter. A 5K blows past the threshold, but most seasoned runners finish 5K’s in under half a hour or less. Many runners finish a 10K in under an hour. Sprinters of course are done in seconds. In each case you’re well below your body’s lactate overload limits.

So, back to the 10 Miler. I find the simplest approach is to run 10 Milers mostly as a long distance run (as the half-marathon runners do). Having given the matter some research and thought, I have settled on two strategies for running the 10 Miler.

Strategy One: The Hadfield Method

Jenny Hadfield crafted a smart approach for marathoners and half marathoners running their first race, and I think it translates well to the 10 Mile distance for most people. Along with new runners to the 10 Miler, Strategy One probably best for experienced runners who put in less than 65 miles a week.

The Hadfield Strategy, in short:

  • You run the first 60% or so of the race at an easy pace to comfortably maintain.
  • You run the next 30% or so at more of a comfortably hard tempo
  • The final 10% is closer to a max effort for whatever you have left.
  • It’s a great strategy in that it doesn’t necessarily have to be built around pace, but around your perceived effort.

If you’re not too fixed on finding goal paces, you are welcome to stop there. Just run the first 6 miles easy, the next 2-3 miles comfortably hard (if you’re running a 15K, it’s 2 miles), then go for it in the final mile.

However, for more experienced runners, I’m more than willing to recommend something closer to actual paces for Hadfielding the 10 Miler:

  1. Start the race at half marathon pace, and hold this pace until Mile 6.
  2. At Mile 6, pick it up to a 10K effort. Don’t expect to hit your actual 10K pace. You’ll be somewhat fatigued at this point. 10K level effort is enough. You want to treat this portion like the last half of a 10K, except don’t kick or accelerate as you would in mile 5. Just pick up the effort like you’re trying to run an even 10K with a slight negative split.
  3. At mile 9 (or if this is a 15K, mile 8), work up to more of a 5K effort. If you have it in you to treat the final mile like a mile time trial or 3000 meter race, then go. But 5K effort is completely acceptable. Get to the effort level that you can carry in that final mile to the finish line. (Side note for Chicago Lakefront 10 runners: I’d maybe keep it exclusively at 5K effort, because you still have to climb and descend Cricket Hill at the end of the race.)
  4. Once you see the finish line and know you can reach it, kick.

Strategy Two: 10 Mile pace, defined.

The other approach is of course to run the entire race at a chosen, suitable pace as you would any other race.

Again, an optimal 10 Mile pace is right below lactate threshold tempo. Most runners can’t sustain that effort for 75-100 minutes, but a fast runner that can clear 10 miles in under an hour can do so easily.

If you can’t go at least 6.5 miles straight at your desired intensity, asking you to do it for 10 is probably too much. This is why I brought up the previous Hadfield strategy recommending you run by feel, start easy, finish hard, and basically assure yourself an excellent negative split.

That said, if you insist on finding a specific minute-and-second pace, I recommend this:

Add your half marathon pace and your 10K pace together, then divide by two.

This will get you very close to your lactate threshold. If you’re above it, you’ll find out the hard way. This pace at its hardest is often more like a tempo run you’d only hold for 60 minutes max.

If you have a few weeks before starting training for the race, you can gauge your actual 10 Miler pace through trial and error testing (and of course make sure you don’t have any speedwork or long runs within 2 days of doing the below):

  1. Pick a comfortably hard pace you think you can maintain for an hour, and run an uninterrupted tempo run at that pace for as long as you can. Aim for an hour minimum. IMPORTANT: If your heart rate reaches 90% of your max or your known 10K effort, stop the workout immediately and note your distance traveled.
  2. If you find you can’t run at least 6.5 miles at that pace, wait a week and try again at a pace 5-15 seconds per mile slower (3-9 seconds per kilometer), depending on how difficult your last attempt was. Again, run for at least an hour and aim for 6.5 miles without distress or other trouble. And again, if you miss the mark, repeat a week later with a pace 5 seconds per mile (3/km) slower.
  3. Unless you aimed far too high, you should figure out a suitable (or at least attainable) 10 Mile race pace by your 3rd try or so.

That is for all intents and purposes your 10 Mile pace. You can train accordingly with that pace until race day.

As for how to train for this race… click here for full info on a 10 week training plan to get you ready to run the 10 Miler.

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