Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I beg to disagree, Mr. Higdon

My biggest mistake I ever made running was to try to run hard all the time.  For at least one season a few years ago, I turned training runs into races, never ran easy ever  and hardly took a day off.  It worked for a while – I certainly got faster – but then staleness and over-training ensued and I actually had to stop running completely for several weeks to recover. 

So I was really surprised when I saw this on Hal Higdon’s Facebook page this morning:

“TODAY'S TIP: A runner asked how fast he should run on his easy days. Should he run faster than race pace or slower? My answer was, yes! That's the answer--yes--and I was not being facetious. On some days you will feel great and may run fast. On other days, possibly because you ran hard the previous day, you'll feel like toast and will want to run slow and short. It varies from day to day.”
What? Race pace on easy days? I thought the idea with easy days is to take it easy so that you can run fast/race pace - whatever - on 'not easy' days such as track, tempo, Saturday pace runs. If you're going to run race pace or faster on 'easy' days, what is the sense of even having easy days on a schedule?

Hal Higdon is a much revered ‘elder statesman’ of running and his marathon programs are amongst the best; I am actually using his Intermediate II program right now. However, the advice to run at race pace or even faster on easy days is bad. For older & slower and beginner runners, it could lead to injuries and over-training. I think there is a consensus amongst most long-distance running coaches that long runs and certainly easy days should be run at a pace of a minute or more below anticipated race pace. Or if you go by heart rate, at a HR not to exceed your aerobic threshold. Race pace or faster should be used only on tempo runs, track, designated pace runs and races. 

Almost forgot:  The downward trend continues.  162 lbs today, down by one more pound for the week.  Cumulative loss now 13 lbs from the starting weight of 175 and (just) 12 lbs to go to 150.  Of course I know I am going to start running into some serious plateaus one of these days.  The ‘easy’ weight is gone, now starts the hard part, trying to get rid of the tenacious midriff bulge. 

I was not exactly looking forward to last night’s (Tuesday) track run.  Some work issues made me late to start with, and it was still very hot – definitely low 90’s Fahrenheit - by the time I started to warm up on the bright blue artificial lanes at Rice University.  My first fast mile was around 7:40 or so, I think.  After all these years you’d think I can operate the two little buttons on the Garmin, properly.  Think again.  I did get the last two though:  7:10 and 6:58 pace respectively.  Without killing myself, although the heart rate went up to 165 right towards the end.  Not too many weeks ago I battled to run the mile repeats at 8:00 pace, so this is quite an improvement!


Amy said...

I agree with you - easy days should be easy and should definitely feel easy - almost "too" easy. but sometimes we have those days where we just feel really good and running fast is too tempting! So maybe that's what he means?
Good job on the weight loss - you have done really well!
I am working with the Appetite for Reduction cookbook right now and enjoying the recipes.

Melissa said...

I think he meant - run faster if you feel like running faster than race pace because you will have days when you don't feel like running fast.

Bert said...

I guess that is what he meant but even so it is bad advice. Even if you feel like running fast, or you just really feel good, you should not run scheduled 'easy' runs at anything close to anticipated race pace. Easy runs should be easy, period. They are supposed to be part of recovery, a hiatus between hard runs, pace runs, speed work, whatever. Also many runners can't tell if they're tired or not, they will run too fast too often, if given half a chance.

Teamarcia said...

I agree. Easy days = easy pace. Wow you've made amazing progress on your mile repeats. You give me hope!