I can tell you with certainty that I’m not an expert at anything, and I often times find that the more I learn about something the more I realize I don’t know. Running is one of those things. I started running with the Couch to 5k program in March of 2011, ran my first race in August 2011, finished my first half marathon in October 2011, and then tackled my first marathon in January 2013. With every stepping stone along the way I thought I’d learned a lot and thought there couldn’t be that much more that I had to learn. I knew people were faster than me, but I thought that it was just because they had been running longer.
I admitted that you have to run faster to get faster, but even then I didn’t really realize when or how much to run faster. When I decided to shoot for a half marathon goal for the spring instead of going for another full or waiting around until the fall, I knew I wanted a training plan that would incorporate speed work. I had consistently seen in Twitter chats and blog posts that the best way to get faster is to do speed work. When I received my training plan from Mary, I was excited to see that when the training plan started I was doing one day per week of speed work, and when I was sure to be fully back at it I’d up that to two speed work days per week.
And then yesterday I ran my first tempo run. And before I even tell you about it I have to tell you that I learned something about tempo runs. Tempo runs aren’t race pace runs. Who knew? There are race pace runs that you run at race pace (rocket science I tell you!) and then there are tempo runs that you run at 15-30 seconds faster than race pace. Novel idea; run faster than you want to run in a race so you get used to being uncomfortable. I like it!
I liked looking at it in the future plan, but when it came to today to actually do it, I was nervous. Since yesterday was my first, it was only 15 minutes. My goal, after gauging how BDR went, was to run those 15 minutes at 8:00/mile pace. When I went out for my warm up, my legs felt heavy. After racing a 10k Saturday then running 9 miles on Sunday I was really sore on Monday, and I could tell that my legs were still working out some of the lactic acid. But, I was determined to hit my goal on this first run.
When my Garmin hit 1 mile, I took off. And I just ran. I glanced at my watch on occasion to make sure I was on pace, I turned around and ran back at some point, and eventually my watch hit 24:39 (it was ingrained in my head), and it was time to end the tempo and go to cool down. I was tired and the last few minutes burned, but when I looked at my splits later and saw that I had run 1.88 miles in those 15 minutes at an average pace of 7:58/mile I was so proud of myself. I had done it! I had nailed my first workout of the plan.
I know there will be days that doesn’t happen, but for my first attempt, I’m glad it wasn’t today! As soon as I finished, I thought ahead to next week and what 20 minutes will feel like. It made me nervous that I won’t be able to push on, but then I thought that maybe over time I’d just get better and more accustomed to it and will be able to build on as I keep doing speed work and training harder than I have before.
I don’t give it a lot of credit, but running fast (for me) is pretty fun. While logging miles is nice most days, I’m realizing that this whole running fast thing is going to be a lot more fulfilling. These four miles felt so much more purposeful than a lot of my previous four mile runs have felt. I’m looking forward to getting better and being able to run at that pace for even longer!
So, to summarize:
-You’ve got to run fast to run fast.
-Tempo runs are at a pace 15-30 seconds faster than race pace.
-I did it!
This afternoon I’m headed out for a 6 miler, and I have two thoughts. I’m a little disappointed that there won’t be a certain speed that I’m trying to hit and that it’s filler miles, but at the same time I’m a little happy to just enjoy the miles. I think these workouts will make me enjoy and feel peace in the non-goal runs more than I have in the past. I’ll look forward to the speed work to feel fast and accomplished, and I’ll look forward to the “just run” miles to enjoy the run and not feel the pressure to hit a certain speed.
Do you do speedwork? What is your favorite kind? Does it change your perspective of the “non-speed” miles?