Run slower to get faster

People are always amazed when I first introduced myself as a marathon runner and asked me what is my secret to finishing a long run. Counter-intuitively it may seem, my answer is always, that I have to run slower enough to get faster. and this approach has proven it’s prudential not only in running but also changed my entire lifestyle. 

This is my second post on running and I will focus on the most important training I will do in my weekly training schedule – the “long slow distance” run.

The “Long Slow Distance” Run

Many marathon runners participate in the race but couldn’t finish by their target time. The reason is not that their running pace too slow. But, instead, they run too fast in the first half and quickly use up their energy, struggling the last 10 km before the finish line. Some might even find themself hitting the “wall” – bodies feel so exhausted that couldn’t lift one more step – and finally have to quit. 

To avoid the “wall”, runners need to have a particular training, maybe even the most important one, into their running schedule – the long slow distance run, also known as LSD. Simple as its name, the LSD run is an easy-pace run that one should feel effortless continuing while lasting for a long distance. 

The idea is to work on one’s endurance in training so that the body’s aerobic capacity increases. Though I don’t want to go into every detail on the term “aerobic”, it is associated with the body’s capacity for slow-medium heart rate exercise, such as long-run, swimming, biking, etc. So that one is able to handle longer runs at a faster pace.

LSD has many benefits. First of all, it is easy to start for every runner. Let’s say you have a target time to finish a half marathon in under 2 hours. That’s 21 km in 120 min, roughly 6 min/km pace – this might be hard for some beginners. What about starting with a slower pace, say 7’30”/km in an LSD training for 10km on a Sunday afternoon. It is much easier, right!?

The amazing thing about LSD is that it is intended to be easy and slow – if you find yourself running out of breath, you are probably too fast. Instead of working on speed, it focuses more on distances and longevity. It’s like telling your body, “Yes – we are running on a big task, but we are doing it in an easy way – you don’t even feel the effort and then it is done”. The distance workout makes you both comfortable and ready physically and mentally. 

From my experience, I always like running the LSD on Sunday afternoon. Relaxing and enjoying the nice summer weather in Saskatoon and I can have a good dinner after the run. After several weeks of LSDs, I can feel my body gradually strengthening and getting more resilient. My LSD pace is usually 5’50’’/km, and finally, I finished the half marathon in Saskatoon this year at 5’12’’/km. Right on to my goal – a sub-2-hour half marathon for my body to recover from the last 2-year’s work from home. 

My running stats from several LSDs before preparing the half marathon

LSD is a lifestyle

The most important thing I learn from running the LSD training is that, if you want to accomplish something great, it is easier to start with the tiny small things that can be handled effortlessly and just keep your pace going.

I soon find this small lesson prudential in other areas of my life too, for example, when meeting a deadline. Nearly everyone would struggle with deadlines, students at school or everyone experiences office setting or just simply deadline of any project. 

I used to have a really bad habit when I was at school. I usually worked hard – tons of hours – for two weeks before the term exam, rushing. Then when the coursework has been submitted, I would feel a sense of relief and be tempted to “relax” for a few days – playing games or watching videos in no particular – until the next deadline approaches near. 

This volatile working schedule had put me through stressed and vain – stressed during the rushing period and vain during the relaxation period. I completely understand the stress I feel and even regret having so little time that has to prepare for exams. On a complete overturn, I would through away my books when the exams are done and will never read them again and have “fun” in vain. This volatile cycle haunted me for the first two years when entering college. 

I decided to make some changes. The first thing I want to work on is to quit rushing by the end of the term in short two weeks’ time, but stretch the period to a long time with small day-to-day preparation. One can relate this strategy so similar to the LSD run – an easy pace run lasting a longer distance. 

This adaptation took a long time to work effectively and involved a shift in lifestyle. I was a “night cat” preparing for exams before deadlines or “enjoying myself” after. In return, I would stay up late at night and woke up late in the mornings too. 

After adopting the LSD study plan, I knew that I wouldn’t have to work “extra hard” at night – Instead I was able to work more efficiently in the morning when I had best-refreshed memory and energy. Since I would be working on small and easy tasks in the morning, it gave me a sense of accomplishment and I could just keep on going, effortlessly. 

The Untold Secret

Now that I have graduated from my graduate study and am entering to early career, I especially cherish this LSD lifestyle. It is the key to every success but is almost “hidden” untold by people. Then I may reflect that – maybe we are too intrigued by the narrative of overcoming a big task by some mystical “technique” or “hard-working” by the end of a deadline – but simply neglect the easy task that we can finish and keep on going.

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