I am a very consistent runner. I pretty much run the same pace no matter what distance I’m running. This is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact in many ways it’s a good thing. But somehow deep down inside I’m feeling like I should be able to run a shorter distance faster. Running faster is a goal of most serious runners. We runners measure improvement in increased distances and faster paces.
Last fall, after I returned from three months in the mountains, running at 10,000 feet, I should have been a running superhero down at a mere 4200 feet. But I wasn’t. I found myself running about the same paces as I had at altitude. Why wasn’t I faster?
My answer came in an old email from Brian Corbett, an RRCA-certified running coach and my former coach at the Wasatch Training Group. In his email dated 5/31/2013, Brian advised the group, “… many of us would like to run faster than we have before or do currently. In almost every case, this is a goal that can be reached with an appropriate WILLINGNESS to train and the understanding of HOW to train.
The first component involves a willingness to run at a pace that is somewhat uncomfortable, at least some of the time. In other words, in order to run faster, you have to run faster. It seems a bit obvious in plain English, but it always amazes me how many runners epitomize the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. While a beginning runner will improve dramatically without intentionally altering their training pace, the point of diminishing returns for this type of training comes quickly for the more experienced runner. The key is a willingness to ‘step outside the comfort zone’ (I hate that cliché) and push ourselves harder.”
To run faster, you have to run faster. Who knew? Oh, wait. Brian knew. So I tried it. I set out from the trailer park with the intention of pushing myself as fast as I could go for about a minute, then scaling back for a couple of minutes, then doing it again. I felt my heart rate go much faster than in my normal training pace, and came back from that run totally spent. What was I doing wrong?
This time the answer came from Danny Dreyer, the author of Chi Running. In the Chi Running technique, you control your speed though your lean and your cadence. Leaning into your run will lengthen your stride, and as long as you take just as many steps per minute as when you’re running upright, you will go faster. And with a lot less effort.
I’ve been practicing this a little, and it does seem to work, but nothing beats the adrenalin that comes at the starting line of a half-marathon. Salt Lake City Half Marathon – April 16 – here I come!