Running To Time Not Distance
Why I train to time and not distance.
1. Energy Preservation
We are creatures of competition, and when a distance is set, we want to try and complete that distance as quickly as possible. However, for race training this is no good, because you are going to burn through your energy stores and hit that proverbial wall, reducing the chance you have of completing your training run, or maybe completing your next training run.
We generally observe in race competitions that running speed decreases rather suddenly instead of decelerating gradually (splits often swing 30 secs). This can be be explained by our inability to maintain a reactive running technique which increases our need for a greater energy demand in order to maintain the same speed.
2. Practice Pacing
We typically see that running for time you pace better, and running for distance you run faster. If you want to hit longer distance and get better times then you need to learn how to pace. Not worrying about how far you are going means you can focus on what pace you are running, and not trying to run each distance as quick as you can means you can focus on a consistent pace.
One of the biggest mistakes that runners make is that thinking that to run faster in races they need to run faster in training (point 3 explains why not).
3. Improving Aerobic Capacity
To improve your aerobic capacity you need to increase the number of mitochondria your muscles have, which will increase your muscles capacity to use oxygen and sustain a faster pace. To do this you need to run more. And the best way to run more….you need to slow down. Because if you run too fast on your easy days, and wear yourself out so you can’t complete all your runs or have to cut them short, you are not putting the mileage on the ground.
It’s like a boomerang, the aim of endurance running training is to ‘dumb down’ your fitness so you can bounce back and go even higher with your specific taper. This is where trust of the process comes in.
4. Injury Reduction
So maybe not injury reduction, a bit of a misleading heading, but for those athletes that tend to get injured a lot, timed runs are good, as it slows you down and stops you beating yourself up as much to get to the finish. It also gives you a chance to warm up into a run.
Timed runs can be mentally easier than distance runs. If you have completely blown out during your training run and are completely exhausted from covering a distance as quick as you can, it is a tough way to run and you may not have enjoyed it. With a timed run, you know how long you are going to be out for, so rather than worrying about how far you are going, you have the luxury of relaxing and settling in to a comfortable pace.
Running 10km by doing 5km at 22 mins and 5km at 28 mins and hanging on at the end, is the same as as running 10km at 26 mins and finishing strong in 24 minutes (this is what we call a negative split which if you pace well you will achieve. Mo Farah is the master at it!)
Running to distance also creates a certain amount of pressure, we become a slave to numbers. Comparison of previous times, comparison to other people, if you are always focussed on the result you may lose the love of running or it becomes a chore / means to an end. Run to time at a certain pace and you’ll get to where you want to be.
Trust the process!