Run Slow, Get Fast

Most runners cringe at the word “jog.”  If a non-runner asks, “How was your jog?”  the most likely response is a curt, “my run was great, thanks.”   But I have learned to embrace the jog.  If professional jogging were a thing, it would be my thing.  I run really slow most of the time.  Sometimes I’m tired from the workout the day before or I’m just not feeling into it and running slow simply feels better.  Other times, I feel fine and running slow can feel like a bit of a drag.  But I put on some headphones and listen to a podcast and run slow anyway.

I credit all my slow miles as one of the main reasons I have not been injured as a runner.  I’m fresh and recovered on my speed days from running easy the day before.  The day after a hard workout more easy miles help recovery.

Sarah Crouch, an elite marathoner who was the second American in Boston this year, puts it this way, “You cannot run too slowly on a recovery day, only too fast. Make sure you understand that. It is a simple concept that is notoriously hard to grasp.” 

If you want to learn about the science behind easy running and completely geek out (like I do) about mitochondrial and capillary development, Jeff Gaudette, head coach at Runners Connect, (the program I follow) has a great article explaining the concept in more depth.

Your aerobic system develops at any speed, so you might as well go slow.  I’m talking at least 2 minutes and probably 3 minutes slower than your marathon pace.  For example, my marathon pace is somewhere around 7 minutes per mile (hopefully 6:50!) and my easy days are in the 9 minute range.

But there’s something up with our egos that makes us hate to go slow.  Maybe it feels embarrassing to log slow miles on Strava or run slow with a faster friend.  Whatever it is, we need to get past it.  Slow is good!  But make sure you’re still actually running.  If you go so slow that you are shuffling and losing your good form, that’s not as helpful.  Be proud of your jog!

I had a fantastic long run yesterday with a high school friend of mine who’s in town with her family on vacation this week.  She kept apologizing for being slow and I had to keep telling her no, it was great; I want to go slow!  (She’s also comes from flat sea level, so running in the summer in the mountains is going to be hard on anyone who’s not used to it.)  Maybe she thought I was just trying to be nice and run slow for her.  Not true.  I’m not nice and I’m running slow for me, not her!

I’m taking back the word “jog.”  No cringing, no shame.  I’m owning the jog. So the next time someone asks me about my run, I’ll reply, “my jog was great, thanks!”

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