Pacing Of Easy Runs
Want to know the most common question I receive from runners, both veteran and beginner?
“If I feel good, can I start running my easy runs faster?”
Before writing this article, I decided to count how many times I received this question in one week. I counted 8 times.
The problem isn’t 8 people asking the same question. The issue is that these runners are unnecessarily focused on the speed of their easy runs and think that by running faster on their easy days they will improve more rapidly.
Unfortunately, focusing on upping the pace of your easy runs is a vanity metric that does not correlate with your progress and contributes little to your fitness.
Aerobic development is roughly the same whether you’re running at 30 seconds or 2 minutes slower than marathon pace. For a 3:30 marathoner, this means that 8:30 pace essentially provides the same aerobic benefits as miles at 9:30 or 10:00 pace. However, running faster than 8:30 pace only increases the time it takes for you to recover while providing little additional benefit aerobically. So, running faster is actually detrimental.
Probably the best example of how little your easy run pace matters is the training of Kenyan runners. Catherine Ndereba, who has a 2:18:47 marathon PR, often runs her easy run days at 7:00 – 7:30 pace, which is about 2 minutes slower than her marathon pace. By keeping the easy days slow, Kenyan runners like Ndereba are able to perform notoriously difficult workouts and take their performances to another level on race day. The Kenyans understand that increasing the pace on their easy days is not the most beneficial way to improve.
Your takeaway: Running faster on your easy days is not important, nor is it a sign of increasing fitness. Focus instead on the purpose of easy runs — recovering from hard workouts and preparing the body for upcoming sessions.