Slow down

Oh, weather. What are you at, eh?  I mean, on Tuesday it truly felt like spring was on the way. I went for a run and the sun was shining, the sky was blue, I swore I could hear the birds chirruping Beach Boys harmonies, and everyone I passed on my run was at least 14.8% happier-looking than usual. But now? Today? You are cold and miserable and you've dropped bits of snow everywhere. Sort your mind out, weather.

I went for my swim on Wednesday this week. There were only six of us in the pool at any one time, which was glorious. There is something so peaceful about the lack of noise. I don't know how the lifeguard doesn't fall asleep during that lunchtime session because the echoey sounds of the gentle splashes and limbs swooshing water about are so relaxing.

I approve of swimming. Yes.

Anyway, running. I'm still a relatively new runner and there is an awful lot to learn about it, especially when you've spent almost all of your life paying zero attention to fitness and sport. Whenever I take an interest in anything, I read all that I can about it because I have an if-a-job's-worth-doing-it's-worth-doing-properly attitude to pretty much everything I do. This week I've been reading about how running slowly can help you to run faster. Apparently, running longer distances at a slower pace helps to build endurance and it strengthens your body and heart and all that, which in turn can pay off with regards to your speed. Now, I don't want to go super fast and I have no desire to win races or be the best, but it's sometimes nice to push yourself and to see yourself improve at something. I got into running via Couch to 5K which is absolutely marvellous. I did it via the One You app which should really be called 'Couch to Running for 30 Minutes' because that's what it focuses on; the end goal is that you will be able to run continuously for thirty minutes. The thing is, and I know I'm not alone in this, many C25Kers link the five kilometres and thirty minutes things together and assume you should be able to run five kilometres in half an hour, and ever since I graduated from C25K, that is what I've been telling myself. I can actually do this, and have done so several times, but while reading about the slow running at an easy pace thing, it dawned on me that virtually every time I go for a run, I run as fast as I comfortably can because that's what I think I should be doing.

No, Laura. NO.

I follow many experienced runners on Instagram and I'm always seeing them talking about 'easy' runs, 'easy' paces and 'long slow runs' and I've always thought that these were all things that marathoners and people training for races did. I mean, why do I – person just running because she likes running – need to be arsed with 'easy' runs? Well, it turns out that I do because they are Good Things To Do and they are beneficial to all runners. I decided to try this easy running and on Thursday I went out to do my 10km with the intention of going slower than usual. I used the Runner's World training pace calculator to work out that my easy pace is 12 minute miles. Until now, I've been running almost every run at about the 10:15 mark. So off I went on my 10km run, much slower than usual, checking my Garmin until I fell into an 11:15 to 11:30 pace. This felt weird. At points I thought I might as bloody well be walking, especially seeing as I wasn't even letting myself enter the recommended 12:00 department, but I resisted the urge to run at my normal speed and I carried on with the slower-than-usual thing. By the halfway mark an imaginary lightbulb above my head had well and truly lit up and I understood why this easy pace thing is a thing. I'd run 5km and I wasn't at all knackered! I stopped for a slurp of water and turned round to head back. I was immediately running into a really strong wind that at times made me feel like a pair of hands in a Dyson Airblade, and this knocked my pace right down to 12 minutes. I finished my run feeling like I could have gone on for another mile, with a big "Ah, now I get it!" grin on my face.

It's recommended that you do about 75-80% of your weekly mileage at an easy pace, with the rest focusing on speed work, so with that in mind, I did my 5km run yesterday at an easy pace too, and I let myself go a bit slower than I did on Thursday and my goodness, I could not believe the difference. It's the finishing and feeling like you could have gone on further that I like.

I know this is probably all really obvious to the experienced runfolk but to this beginner it really is such a revelation. I think we can get so caught up in the achievements and activities of others, even on a subconscious level, and due to this we perhaps feel we should be going at a certain speed or like I say, we might associate a certain time with a certain distance, but we need to remind ourselves that we are all different. We are different ages, weights and builds, and we have different capabilities, goals and motivation, therefore our approaches to running, and the results of them, will be different too.

I'm going to be working on my easy pace and my long slow runs, gradually building up my distance in the coming months, because yesterday I signed up for a half marathon. I can't quite believe I did this but I'm ever so excited about it. I'm doing the Richmond Runfest half on 16th September. This will be the day before my first runniversary, so I thought it would be a nice way to mark my first year of running. I'm going to do the run in aid of Make-A-Wish and yes, I will be setting up a fundraising page for this in the near future, and then my transformation into total runtwat will be complete.

Running Tune of the Week
Joy by Apollo 100