Feb 21, 2011

On long runs and my lack thereof

My light(er)weight running friends seem to be able to go running at an easy (for them) 9 minute per mile pace and smile and laugh and enjoy the time like they're watching a good movie or reading a good book. Time just flies by for them and they can knock out significantly long runs in 3 or 4 hours. I, on the other hand, have a significantly different experience in the 5 or 6 hours the same distance takes me. This is due to my being obese. One friend in particular uses the word "disadvantage" to describe my size in running and I think that's a great word to describe it.

So my friends can run 9s all morning and feel good about it. Relatively speaking, I might feel the same way at 13 minutes per mile, but I'd feel like I was accomplishing little, and at that speed doing a 20-mile training run would take for-friggin' ever. As a result, my training runs tend to be fast (for me), but because I can't maintain even 11 minutes per mile for more than a half marathon or so, they also tend to be short. At a race, where I know I'll be out there all day anyway and I'm with people, I can mentally accept going 13 minutes per mile or slower. But I almost never run that speed in training alone, which is why most of my long runs tend to be races.

The effect of this is my training tends to lack very long runs. I do work hard in each and every one of my training runs, but because I work so hard they tend to be short. As a practical matter, I feel like I'm forcing adaptation. My body responds to daily hard work by making itself lighter, thus making the hard work easier. But that's little more than an educated guess. What probably is actually happening is that I'm an impatient fool who can't be bothered to run slow and get the benefits that I can only get by running long.

My last three weeks of training. The 10-miler was a race.
I do realize that there is nothing wrong with running slow and speed is not relevant or a point of doing a 25-mile training run. The issue for me is not rational, but neurotic. If it seems to you that I should probably be addressing my personal psychological issues, I'd probably agree. However, I'd rather leverage these issues now to get my cruising easy pace down to 9 minutes per mile or whatever I'm capable of when lean and worry then about the inevitable "not feeling like I'm accomplishing anything if I'm not running 7s" (sounds like one helluva problem to have.)

As my weight is dropping I'm starting to see the effects in my pace. The perceived effort I was putting into these runs used to net me 11 minutes per mile and now I'm doing 10. But I still have a long long way to go before I feel like I can run with my shirt off (which I guess is my goal.) As my weight continues to drop I expect a corresponding increase in speed, perhaps to the point where I can actually hang with my friends when they tick off a few dozen nine-minute miles. That would be nice.