Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Thu, 5 Jun 2003 08:33:08 -0400

More Mini-Lessons


My main goals for the running classes I teach at the University of Oregon are (1) for 100 percent of the students to improve their times during the 10-week term, and (2) for zero percent of them to get hurt from these runs.

The two goals are linked. At this age, runners improve quickly and dramatically -- if they stay healthy.

We never quite reach either the improvement or the health goal. But each term we come a little closer both ways.

The students teach the teacher how to improve the class. That's another of my goals -- to find at least one new way to make the next session better.

I learned early that students don't want or need long lectures. They mostly learn to run by running.

The runs come first, lasting most of each class period. Supplemental advice comes later, as a single e-mailed paragraph along with the day's running results.

RC 468 carried the first half of these mini-lessons for my 5K/10K racing class. Here are the final 10:

11. WARMING UP. Don't confuse stretching with warmup. Stretching exercises don't start you sweating or raise your heart rate. You warm up by moving -- first by walking or running slowly, then by easing into the full pace of the day after a mile or so. Recommendation: Walk five minutes (about a quarter-mile, not counting this in your run distance or time), then start to run. Treat the first mile of running as your warmup, making it the slowest mile of the day. The faster you plan to run that day, the more you warm up. For relaxed runs, simply blend the warmup period into longer runs by starting slower. On fast days, warm up separately by running a mile to several miles -- perhaps adding some "strides." These are a few short runs (of about 100 yards) at the day's maximum pace, taken before speed training or racing. Strides prepare the legs and lungs for what you're about to do.

12. COOLING DOWN. When the run ends, resist the urge to stop suddenly. Instead, walk to cool down more gradually. If the warmup shifts gears between resting and hard running, the cooldown period is a necessary transition from racing to resting. Continued mild activity gradually slows down the revved-up metabolism, and also acts as a massage to gently work out the soreness and fatigue products generated by the earlier effort. The pattern and pace of recovery are set in the first few minutes after the running ends. Some advisers will tell you to run easily during the cooldown, but walking gives the same benefits with much less effort -- and you've already run hard enough. After this walk is the best time for stretching exercises, which loosen the muscles that running has tightened.

13. EXTRA EXERCISES. Running is a specialized activity, involving mainly the legs in straight-ahead movement. If you're seeking more complete fitness, you need to supplement the runs with other exercises. These strengthen the muscles that running neglects, and stretch those that running tightens. The older you are and the more years you've run, the greater the imbalance and tightness can become, and the greater your risk of run-interrupting injuries -- unless you take corrective action. Give attention to strengthening the upper body, and to stretching the legs. Add a few minutes of extra exercise -- after the day's run for stretching, when these exercises do the most good, and well separated from the run for strength activities so they don't drain energy away from your running.

14. 5K TRAINING. You routinely run 5K and beyond in training. The quickest way to improve your race time, then, is by upping the pace one day a week for a distance below 5K. This one-month program focuses on speed-building. You also extend the length of one weekly run to above the race distance, to make the 5K seem shorter. On fast days, run at projected 5K race pace. On long days, run at easy-day pace but longer.

(week -- easy runs -- long run -- fast run)
1 -- 3-4 days of 30 minutes -- 4-5 miles -- 1-2 miles
2 -- 3-4 days of 30 minutes -- 5-6 miles -- 1-2 miles
3 -- 3-4 days of 30 minutes -- 4-5 miles -- 1-2 miles
4 -- 3-4 days of 30 minutes -- no longer run -- 5K race

15. 10K TRAINING. The month-long 10K program resembles the one for 5K, but the distances naturally go up for a race twice as long. Again mix over-and-unders -- fast runs below the 10K distance and long ones above it. By slightly modifying this plan, you can run races at two other popular distances -- 8K (or five miles) and 12K.

(week -- easy runs -- long runs -- fast runs)
1 -- 3-4 days of 30 minutes -- 7-8 miles -- 2-3 miles
2 -- 3-4 days of 30 minutes -- 8-9 miles -- 2-3 miles
3 -- 3-4 days of 30 minutes -- 7-8 miles -- 2-3 miles
4 -- 3-4 days of 30 minutes -- no long run -- 10K race

16. EQUAL TIMES. You can predict fairly accurately what you'll run for a certain distance without having run it recently. You can base the prediction on races at different distances. Pace obviously slows as racing distance grows, and speeds up as it shrinks. But how much of a slowdown or speedup is normal? A good rule of thumb is a five-percent slowdown as the distance doubles, or that much faster pace as the distance drops by half. Multiply or divide by 2.1 to predict your time for double or half the distance. This table compares times for 5K and 10K races.

(5K time -- 10K time)
15:00 -- 31:30
16:00 -- 33:35
17:00 -- 35:40
18:00 -- 37:50
19:00 -- 39:55
20:00 -- 42:00
21:00 -- 44:05
22:00 -- 46:10
23:00 -- 48:20
24:00 -- 50:25
25:00 -- 52:30
26:00 -- 54:35
27:00 -- 56:40
28:00 -- 58:50
29:00 -- 1:00:55
30:00 -- 1:03:00

17. RACE PACE. Even if you've done everything right in training, you can cancel all that good with as little as one wrong move on raceday. The first and worst bad move is leaving the starting line too quickly. Crowd hysteria and your own raging nervous system conspire to send you into the race as if fired from a cannon. Try to work against the forces of the crowd and your natural desires. Keep your head, while runners around you are losing theirs. Pull back the mental reins at a time when the voices inside are shouting, "Faster!" Be cautious in your early pacing, erring on the side of too-slow rather than too-fast. Hold something in reserve for the late kilometers. This is where you reward yourself for your early caution, by passing instead of being passed.

18. 5K PACING. Talking about even-pace running is easier than running it -- or calculating it. The problem is that races in the U.S. combine two measurement systems. While most events are run at metric distances, such as 5K, splits are often given at MILE points and pace is usually computed in PER-MILE terms. This table takes those practices into account. It lists even pace per mile, plus target times at 2-1/2K (the halfway point). Determine your probable final time, then plan to start no faster or slower than the paces indicated here.

(5K goal/per-mile) -- 2.5K split)
15:00 (4:50) -- 7:22 to 7:37
16:00 (5:10) -- 7:52 to 8:07
17:00 (5:29) -- 8:22 to 8:37
18:00 (5:48) -- 8:52 to 9:07
19:00 (6:08) -- 9:22 to 9:37
20:00 (6:27) -- 9:52 to 10:07
21:00 (6:46) -- 10:22 to 10:37
22:00 (7:06) -- 10:52 to 11:07
23:00 (7:25) -- 11:22 to 11:37
24:00 (7:45) -- 11:52 to 12:07
25:00 (8:04) -- 12:22 to 12:37
26:00 (8:23) -- 12:52 to 13:07
27:00 (8:42) -- 13:22 to 13:37
28:00 (9:02) -- 13:52 to 14:07
29:00 (9:21) -- 14:22 to 14:37
30:00 (9:40) -- 14:52 to 15:07

19. 10K PACING. The rationale is the same here as in the earlier lesson for 5K racing -- even-paced running is most efficient, and the halves are best run within five seconds per mile of equal time. Negative splits (faster second half) are preferable to "positives." Here are the recommended pace ranges for the halfway point in a 10K.

(10K goal/per-mile -- 5K split)
30:00 (4:50) -- 14:45 to 15:15
32:00 (5:10) -- 15:45 to 16:15
34:00 (5:29) -- 16:45 to 17:15
36:00 (5:48) -- 17:45 to 18:15
38:00 (6:08) -- 18:45 to 19:15
40:00 (6:27) -- 19:45 to 20:15
42:00 (6:46) -- 20:45 to 21:15
44:00 (7:06) -- 21:45 to 22:15
46:00 (7:25) -- 22:45 to 23:15
48:00 (7:45) -- 23:45 to 24:45
50:00 (8:04) -- 24:45 to 25:15
52:00 (8:23) -- 25:45 to 26:15
54:00 (8:42) -- 26:45 to 27:15
56:00 (9:02) -- 27:45 to 28:15
58:00 (9:21) -- 28:45 to 29:15
60:00 (9:40) -- 29:45 to 30:15

20. RACE RECOVERY. One of the most important phases of a training program is also one of the most overlooked. This is what to do AFTER the race. It doesn't end at the finish line but continues with what you do -- or don't do -- in the immediate and extended period afterward. How long recovery takes depends on the length of the last race. The longer it was, the longer the rebuilding period. One popular rule of thumb is to allow at least one easy day for every mile of the race (about a week after a 10K). One day per kilometer (or 10 days post-10K) might work even better if the race was especially tough. During this period, take no really long runs, none very fast, and avoid further racing. Run easily.


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