Running slow is a good opportunity to listen to your body and make adjustments to improve
People are often discouraged from taking up running under the misconception that, to complete a marathon or a regular run, you have to be fast all the time. The truth is, running slow is an important part of being a runner. Here are some reasons.
Runners usually take advantage of the weekend to run long slow distances
Commonly known as LSDs, these runs are at least 10 to 12 kilometers and could last up to 30 kilometers depending on your goal. LSDs are designed to build endurance by pushing the body to endure longer times on their feet at an easy pace. What’s an easy pace? Without getting into the technicalities, the LSD pace depends on what a runner can maintain over that long distance, and what is repeatable in the next LSD session. Compared with speed drills, LSDs are fun times for runners.
If there is the long slow distance, there is also the short or recovery run
Marathons and ultramarathons subject the body to a lot of trauma. Scheduling a recovery run one or two (or three) days after race day is part of your body’s restoration process as it heals muscle tears, rests the joints, and builds new mental and physical strength at a lower intensity.
It supports recovery from light injuries
Doctors always prescribe rest to those who are nursing injuries. But athletes are a bull-headed lot. Unless they are totally incapacitated, runners will find a way to lace up and show up. Running slow strikes a happy compromise between no run and relentless training.
It is a great introduction to the sport
Coaches and friends would not want to scare or discourage newbies by having them run at high speeds right away. Besides, few people are born as gifted runners. With most people, speed and endurance are honed in the natural course of focused and long-term training. A slow, natural pace helps both coach and runner determine the runner’s strengths and fitness level, and build a program from there.
Listening to the body and mind
Whether seasoned or beginner, slow runs are a good channel for runners to “feel” out their body mechanics and make improvements in posture, landing, stride, and breathing; lessons that are applied when you hit the faster speeds. It is also the time to build mental toughness, where you teach your inner voice to create positive mantras to get you through the pressures of the race. Thoughts like “Keep the pace,” “Ignore the pain,” or “I want a juicy burger.”
It can save your race
So today is race day. You are all pumped up. Adrenaline is rushing like mad in your body. This is the day you’ve been training for. The day you will slash your personal record. Then the leg cramps hit you at kilometer 10. Don’t fret if the others pass you along the course.
Taking the time to slow your pace (or even walk) for a minute or so may save your race because it will relax your muscles and possibly let you restart. Yes, you will have to sacrifice speed. Yes, you are disappointed. But at this point, your general well-being takes priority. There will be other races.
A personal favorite of mine, the meditative form of running is where you learn to quiet the self and clear the mind. It allows you to value quality time, better appreciate blessings, and empty your mind of the pressures of daily living. A simple, quiet run is a time to rediscover your love of running and remember why you run.