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By Columnist Ron Byland – USATF, RRCA and Lydiard certified Running Coach:


Photo Credit: Ryan Knapp, 2011: 31st Annual St. Patrick’s Day Run –

Over the years,  when I have meet runners for the 1st time, and they often talk about their goals. One of the 1st questions I ask is, “Tell me about how you train?” Many runners say the same; they run the same paces every day. When I then ask these runners how fast they race, almost all, say slower.

The Benefit of Training Paces

To overcome the issue of running pace, I get runners to adhere to specific training paces, usually whatever the racing distance is. After following this regime, it often surprises them how much better they feel and how much faster they become.

From the start of those training with me, their average marathon PR is approximately 18+ minutes, and this is mainly due to proper training pacing. For instance, I have a new runner that I’ve been working with for almost three months, and they tell me they’re doing more than twice the weekly mileage than before without being as tired and are running faster than ever before.

Mix-up Your Training to Get Results

The advantages of training hard on your rough day and easy on your easy days are enormous. I feel like in today’s society where H.I.T. workouts are all the rage; I see more coaches/studios promoting this style of workout with diminished returns or an increase of injuries and training burnout. High-Intensity Workouts are great for recruiting fast-twitch muscles that help provide you with a late-race kick. They help you strengthen your heart and in my opinion help you to tolerate the pain and discomfort associated with running faster.

These H.I.T workouts help you to become a more efficient and confident runner. But what gets most of us in trouble, both mentally and physically, is we continue to tear ourselves down more and more and then we can’t perform our quality workouts as we should. We get frustrated and then push even harder on the next run. It’s the easy recovery days that allow you to perform up to your ability on your fast days.

Don’t Focus on Speed, Focus on Your Fitness

The one question I get more than any other from runners of all abilities is, “If I feel good, can I start running my easy runs faster?” These runners are unnecessarily focused on the speed of their easy runs and think that by running faster on their carefree days they will improve more rapidly. Unfortunately, focusing on improving the pace on your easy runs does not correlate with your progress and contributes little to your fitness.

Aerobic development is roughly the same whether you’re running at 30 seconds or 2 minutes slower than marathon pace. For a 3:30 marathoner, this means that 8:30 pace provides the same aerobic benefits as miles at 9:30 or 10:00 pace. However, running faster than 8:30 pace only increases the time it takes for you to recover while providing little additional benefit aerobically. So, running faster on a simple day is detrimental.

Probably the best example of how much your easy run pace matters comes from the training of Kenyan runners. Catherine Ndereba, who is a Boston winner (4x), Marathon World Champion (2x) and a Silver Medalist in the Olympic Marathon (2x), has a marathon PR of 2:18:47 (5:18 per mile). She often runs at a 7:00 – 7:30 pace on her easy run days, which is about 2 minutes slower than her marathon pace. By keeping the easy days slow, Kenyan runners, like Ndereba, can perform notoriously difficult workouts and take their performances to another level on race day. The Kenyans understand that increasing the pace on their easy days is not the most beneficial way to improve.

Actual Recovery Days

A true recovery day should not, even in the slightest way, be hard. You should be training at a pace where you are barely breathing hard and can maintain a short conversation. Despite how good you feel when running easy, you should not push the pace on a recovery day; otherwise, you are defeating the purpose of the workout.

Most people are amazed at how slow they must truly go in order to accomplish this task and sometimes it can feel almost painfully slow, but it will be beneficial come your next hard training day. So the takeaway from this is to run faster, you must slow down.

About Our Marathon News and Review Columnist

Ron Byland HeadShotRon Byland is the current coach of Kelly Brinkman, 2013 USATF-MN Female runner of the year. He has an extensive competitive racing background that spans over more than 30-years, and he has been coaching runners for over 25-years.

• USATF, RRCA & Lydiard Certifications
• 25+ Years coaching experience
• 30+ Years of Competitive racing
• Coached runners of all levels from beginner to Olympic caliber runners
• Founder & coach of Minneapolis based Mile To Marathon Run Club

As the founder and coach of Minneapolis based Mile To Marathon Run Club, Ron Byland,  offers runners many coaching options, such as

• Mile To Marathon Coaching Options • Customized Personal Training Program • Personal One on One Training Sessions • Virtual Training

• Corporate Run Programs for 5 -500 runners • Couch To 5K Programs • Corporate Speaker

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Disclaimer: The information published in this column are based on the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.


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