Back when I started running 7 years ago, there were countless things I was doing “wrong.” The thing is, I didn’t think anything was “wrong,” I mean, how hard is running? You put one foot in front of the other and get out and do it as many days each week as you can handle. My first ever run was with a friend and we ran 5 miles at 10:00/mi pace (she had a GPS). Knowing what I know now, this was a steady state effort for me that day but that day, I just ran and gave it no thought. And for months afterward, it was the same. Every single effort was a steady effort, and my times got faster and faster as they do when one gets fitter, but I always ran at that same level of effort and always 5-6 miles.
After 7ish months, I had become incredibly efficient at running 6 miles. My steady state efforts were at around 6:50 pace and I began to get curious about whether or not I could race. I don’t know how it took me this long to start reading about running, maybe because I was enjoying so much just going out and having no plan, but this is when I first started doing some research. I was pretty thrilled by the idea that I would supposedly be able to race faster than my normal pace on race day, though the idea kind of baffled me. I started looking up races and I saw a half marathon that sounded interesting but the farthest I had ever gone was 6 so I researched some more and learned about the mythic long run. I read about how these are run slower and decided to go out for my first double digit run (yep, no build up, just 10 right of the gate…told you I knew nothing back then).
I decided to go out at 8:00/mi and see how that went. It was hard for the first mile or two because I had never run such a controlled effort before and it was really difficult to keep myself from speeding up but I eventually got it under control and something miraculous happened…it felt easy. My daily runs had never felt truly hard before, because I had never pushed the pace, but neither had they ever felt this kind of effortless ease. I went on my normal 5 mile loop and when I was halfway through the second one, I knew I was going to make it. My stride felt so light and energetic, I couldn’t believe it. I finished 10 thinking I could definitely go longer and feeling amazing. I signed up for the half that day…and my first marathon.
The funny thing is, I’m still always tempted to do my training runs too fast. I don’t want to do my intervals at 5k or 10k pace, I want to do them at close to max effort. I blur the lines between steady state runs and tempo runs. But the easy days, those are special. I can remember so accurately the feeling of that first long run and I try my best to replicate it on all my easy runs, to remember what it feels like to truly run easy and to feel like you could do it forever and like there’s nothing you’d rather do than just keep running. You’ve probably read the little axiom “run the hard days hard and keep your easy days truly easy.” It’s the closest thing I have to a training philosophy these days and whenever I’m tempted to go out too hard, I remind myself that the hard days are what make gains in your fitness and the easy days are for adaptation and recovery. If that doesn’t work, I remind myself that easy days are what restore my faith in running 😉
Did you make any big training errors when you started running?
Do you remember your first long run?
What convinced you to sign up for your first race?