For someone that came to running late - after my 50th birthday - running has provided an opportunity for me to indulge in one of the things I love about sport – statistics!
As a runner I can judge my progress in terms of pace, speed, cadence, average heart rate, peak heart rate, distance, VO2 max, the list goes on and on and on and on.
And with an abundance of tech gear to assist, my passion, some might say obsession, for stats makes every run an opportunity to indulge.
Little did I appreciate how trying to refocus my training on going slow to get faster was going to mess with my head. And my heart rate. And my average minutes per mile. And my cadence.
For those who haven’t come across an 80/20 training plan or the Maffetone method of running, the idea is that we need to learn to drop the pace and then some magic happens and we all end up running super-fast.
It seems crazy and completely counter-intuitive. How does running slower make you run faster?
According to research, or at least a few articles in the archives of Runners World, elite athletes spend 80 per cent of their training at a low intensity and therefore only spend 20 per cent training hard.
I’m a fan of Rich Roll, an endurance ultra-marathon runner, and his take on it is simple – we have a tendency to spend too much time in the ‘grey zone’, meaning we run too fast on slow days and too slow on fast days.
The effect being that there is very little differentiation in our training and all this means is a flatline, no progress and the potential for over-training injuries.
So with my schedule of autumn marathons now cancelled, it feels like the ideal time to approach my running differently.
I’m now a week into trying to run slow to get faster and this is where it’s messing with my head and my stats!
Run One: 12-minute miles (to stay in the blue zone ie a heart rate below 140, with loads of walking breaks)
Run Two: 10.5-minute miles (and a lot fewer walking breaks)
Run Three: 10-minute miles (no walking breaks and running with Mr Ford )
Run Four: 11-minute miles (back running alone, and needing to walk inclines)
Run Five: Nine-minute miles (for ten miles, running and chatting with Carolyn Allan)
Little consistency, limited ability to predict what kind of run is going to deliver the magical Garmin blue zone, and no blooming patience - that’s been my experience to date.
I know there are lots of factors that can have an impact on our run, and most of us don’t really think about the variety of physical and emotional factors at play when we lace up.
But I do know all good things are worth waiting for and I’ve been told to expect progress to be measured in months, not days, so this will be a real test of how much I want to improve.
And in the meantime I perhaps just need to stop playing the ‘stats game’ and run naked (not literally).