Four Minutes

Determining the pace of my runs is an important aspect of training. Just going out and running on feel has it's place, but it does have it's limitations. I want to improve, and I need to train in a way that produces results. Training should be challenging, but it needs to stay within my recovery capacities to ensure positive adaptations rather than stagnation or even regression.

There needs to be something to guide how I choose these paces. I've thrown away the heart rate monitor quite a while ago. They don't make them like they used to. Even when the units are working, how fast my ticker is beating just isn't a good guide anymore. Maybe it's because I'm getting old or shift work just stuffs it all up. Can't think of any race that is won based on heart rate either. First across the line tends to be the usual way to win.

Pace seems to be the option to go with. Because my racing goals flit between 100km and 10km events, picking the marathon seems be a good middle area to run off. Plus it relates well to the aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. To aim for, I've picked a time of 2:48 which is 10 minutes faster than my marathon personal best. Nothing like aiming high. It also works out to be 4:00/km pace, which is somewhat arbitrary, but kind of convenient for the maths. It isn't quite all based on a good looking number. There is some relationship to my past history and predicted results out of the exercise lab from a time long, long ago.

Now I know I am not in shape to run a 2:48 marathon tomorrow. Holding the pace of my last 10km race over the full marathon distance is quite an ask. Taking a nice big drink out of the reality cup I accept that this 4:00/km thing is big goal to aim for. Knowing where my current fitness compares to that goal drives the training. Building up bit by bit, against a set of increasing standards provides a good amount of objectivity. This is best demonstrated with an example.


A common run from now will be what I term a base run. Initially it is 60 minutes at 80% of my goal marathon race pace which turns out to be a pace 4:48/km. Initially this feels comfortably hard. It has a fair relationship to the my anaerobic threshold and is probably at or even a bit above my aerobic threshold. The first couple of runs have me feeling reasonably flat the next day, and definitely not ready up for one of the harder key runs. Over a few weeks, this 60 minutes at 4:48/km becomes comfortable and tends to take the place of the easy run. There is limited fatigue the next day and I can go out smash a solid session. At this stage, the run should have less effect on the anaerobic threshold now, it just isn't much of a stimulus to improve it. It should also be within my aerobic threshold and really to have much influence on it the run needs to lengthen out to something like 90 minutes. Of course it's not just running further. If everything goes really well the pace of this run speeds up over time to 90% of marathon goal pace, 4:28/km and if I can hold that for 90 minutes comfortably, then the rest of training should be going well.

Different paces, durations and formats are attached to work on the other aspects as I develop. When the numbers are logged day in, day out, week after week, it creates a solid picture of exactly where my fitness is. There should be fluidity in training that is coupled with a form of accountability. Without it, you may still improve, but it gets harder to keep improving for the long term.

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