Steady State Runs
Steady state runs, or runs done at or in close proximity to your marathon race pace, are a great way to build aerobic strength, which is the foundation for your best performances from 5K to the marathon. From a pacing perspective, steady state runs are completed anywhere between 10 seconds faster and 30 seconds slower than your marathon race pace. That’s quite a pace range, which is just another reason why learning to run steady runs by feel is important.
What are the training benefits of a steady state run?
Running at your steady state pace maximizes development of your aerobic threshold, or the fastest pace you can run while still remaining completely aerobic (meaning your muscles have enough oxygen to produce all the energy they need). Developing your aerobic threshold is important because the aerobic energy system supplies more than 85 percent of the energy needed for distances of 5K or longer. The more you can develop your aerobic system over months and years of training, the faster you’ll be able to run moving forward.
What does a steady run feel like?
A steady state run should feel “comfortably hard”, meaning you could keep up the pace for an hour or more, but it’s not exactly easy. Since “comfortably hard” might mean something different to every runner, you can monitor your breathing rhythm to get a better feel for what a steady state effort means to you.
Steady state runs should typically be performed while breathing at a 3:3 ratio (three steps: one with your left, one with your right, one with your left, while breathing in; three steps: one with your left, one with your right, one with your left, while breathing out). A 3:3 breathing rhythm ratio enables you take about 30 breaths per minute, which is needed for running “comfortably hard”.
The Talk Test
Another easy way to test whether you’re running in the range of steady state pace is to perform the “talk test”. While running, try to speak out loud, or to your running partner. If you can get out a three to four short sentences, but can’t quote Shakespeare, you’re running at steady state pace. If you can only blurt out one or two sentences before you start gasping for breath, you’re running too hard.