Slow down to speed up. Go slower to get faster.
These are popular sayings in the world of more structured training for runners that you may have heard before. They’re catchy, but they don’t exactly tell the whole story. If you want to become a faster runner, there’s a time and a place for LOTS of different paces. As central PA trail runner extraordinaire and hill segment maven Matt Lipsey recently told me on a slow-paced trail run, “It’s important to work all the gears.”
If you’re a Strava user and would like to see this training philosophy in action, I’d recommend following a professional runner named Drew Hunter. The guy has a 5K best of 13.29 (you read that right) and routinely logs recovery runs near 8 minute mile pace (you also read that right). Don’t get me wrong, the guy crushes some insanely fast track workouts and road intervals, but he’s also not afraid to CHILL OUT on those runs that are meant for recovery. It’s a perfect example of working all the gears, but something that the average 9-5 runner often lacks the patience for, present company included.
Need help slowing down on some of those runs? I’d recommend hitting the trails. I’m not talking about rail trails. I mean trail trails. They offer a great venue for slowing down, primarily for reasons: There’s lots of awesome stuff to look at that you might miss if you’re moving too fast, there are most likely hills that you will have no choice but to run very slow (or walk), and if you’re moving too fast there’s a very good chance you’ll end up horizontal.
When it’s time to go slow, go SLOW. Enjoy it, because every other part of life is going to start speeding up again before we know it.