Don’t let anybody – or any training plan – tell you otherwise. Running is many things but easy isn’t one of them.
The first time I ran a marathon, I used one of Hal Higdon’s free training plans. The plan was great, and it prepared me well enough to finish a marathon. However, the plan didn’t ever define “easy” pace for me in a way that I could really apply. I didn’t know enough yet to estimate my training paces based on my race goal pace. I think I really only had one basic pace: go.
Basically, “easy pace” means you can carry a conversation. It can be a challenge to stick to a very easy pace for over an hour when you feel like you have things to run through. Sometimes faster just feels better, or sometimes you want to get your miles in but you’ve also got things to do and places to be.
Learning to control my pace has made me a better runner overall. It allows me to vary my running workouts to achieve specific goals. It takes patience and self-control. It can be difficult to reign in the urge to prove (to myself) that I’m in better shape than the random runner ahead of me! Controlling that urge in order to stick to an easy pace is part of the mental game of running.
And you do what you can to strengthen that mental muscle..
As I mentioned, I used a Hal Higdon training plan for my first marathon. The plan itself was good, with workouts and mileage progression appropriate for my running level. For me though, there wasn’t enough hand-holding or accountability. I printed the plan and then tried to follow it, without understanding it.
For the past year or so, I’ve been using a training plan generated by Runcoach™.
One of the things I really like about Runcoach™ is that it feels (and is) so personalized. You choose a goal race and enter previous race data, then Runcoach™ uses the algorithm they’ve developed to create a plan personalized to your fitness level and training goal.
In addition to the plan being customized, you have access to the coaches (real people!) through email or live chat whenever you have a question or a concern.
I started using Runcoach™ to train for the 2014 Marines Corps Marathon, and it was a good plan but I didn’t stick to it closely enough. I skipped a lot of cross-training and only sort of paid attention to the assigned paces.
To prepare for the Boston Marathon® this year, I continued with Runcoach™, this time taking it a bit more seriously and literally. I skipped far fewer cross-training sessions. I arrived at the start line more prepared and more confidant than I had at the Marine Corps Marathon start line, without a doubt.
I’m off to do my squats now! How are you doing with the Squat Challenge?