10 miles hard vs 10 miles easy

Two weeks ago I ran a hard 10 mile session … I felt strong throughout it… having been well rested before it, with good music on, a couple of caffeine gels and some nice new trainers… I flew around the 10 miles which comprised of 5k hard, then nearly 2 miles recovery, then another 5k hard, before 2 miles recovery again.

I worked hard, with an average heart rate of 156 and max 181. My average pace was 8:23 minute miles, and I finished the 10 miles with a glow in 1:23:54.

Here’s some of my splits and heart rate for the run. On the effort parts my heart rate was away up between 160-180 and on the recoveries it was down to about 150. I felt good and strong on the run but knew I needed rest after it, so took a day of rest and made sure I got plenty sleep.

Fast forward to this Sunday, two weeks on and I decided I’d run easy. Aiming to keep my heart rate at between 130-150 if I could. Through Maxwell park then 6 miles in Pollok Park before running 2 miles home.

I split the run into chunks, or chunked it up… 5 x 2 miles… it’s a good way to make long runs seem like less of such a mountainous challenge. I didn’t have a route as such, I’d just spend my time between a couple of parks then run home.

My legs were a little tender with DOMS in my quads and glutes, so the downhills I usually enjoyed, I tried to avoid. Instead I ran steadily and comfortably up quite a few hills, still keeping it easy and keeping my heart rate as low as possible. I felt great.

I was able to see more, hear more and take more in. And it’s no wonder, as my average heart rate was 141, my average pace 9:41, over a minute a mile slower… or easier than the other week. I finished in 1:37, but hadn’t had any focus on the time or my splits, I was just aiming to take it easy and enjoyable.

Last week I met Liz and Donna who are about 6 months into running and I was telling them about easy running and hard running, versus slow and fast running.

When runners are beginners, or when they start getting fitter and faster, it can become a good goal for them to aim to get faster… and all of a sudden speed and pace can become a priority. Or even experienced runners, who are perhaps racing, time and pace can become a priority.

I do like running ‘fast’ sometimes, but I tend to do most of my running at ‘slow’ paces, or slower than fast… if that makes sense.

I don’t tend to see it as ‘slow’ and ‘fast’, I tend to see it as ‘easy’ and ‘hard’.

So if we take the words slow and fast:

It would be nice to be able to run faster. It becomes the positive… beating pbs, improving your times, getting fitter and faster.

Running slowly becomes a negative. Slower than you were before, slower than others (sometimes this doesn’t matter as much to some people).

Faster is usually deemed as better than slower.

But I see runs as either easy or hard… not slow or fast…

I’ve written about this and compared easy or hard runs before here: https://lornpearsontrains.co.uk/2014/03/05/fast-or-slow-it-would-be-better-if-it-was-hard-or-easy/

So two weeks ago, my run was hard (and fast)… I still enjoyed it as it was a challenging run for me. After it I was tired and need a lot of Recovery – running with your heart rate at between 88-99% of your max for nearly an hour and a half will take it out of you.

Anaerobic hard running for quite a long time (without oxygen). Gubbed and in need of recovery. I probably missed quite a lot on the run, my senses compromised by my body working so hard.

… if you’re not enjoying running or if you’re finding it hard to be motivated to run… maybe it’s because it’s hard? Maybe you’re running fast … maybe you’re working hard and maybe you’re feeling bad because of it…

Running fast can be great, but it’s hard, and who wants life to be hard?

On the other hand, today’s long run was easy (and slow). No pressure, no looking at the clock or pace… just run and tick along comfortably. Heart rate between 70-80%.

Aerobic running, and I even stopped at mile 9 to help give directions to some women who were looking at a map. (There’s no way I would have done that two weeks ago when my focus was on running fast).

Running up hills I was careful to not work to hard, slow or down and not push it. After running I felt fine, refreshed and alert. I had a shower after and felt fine all day.

Easy running or slow running can be great too. But as I mentioned below ‘slow’ isn’t usually seen as a good thing…. I think it is a good thing.

Easy or hard, slow or fast… most people want to run fast, but who wants their life to be hard? I know I don’t. I want life to be easy… and enjoyable… and that applies to my running too (most of the time).

So next time you go for a run, why don’t you try and take it easy? Slow it down, and have a think about enjoying it, instead of pushing yourself to run fast and make it hard.

It’s good to test yourself every now and again, but keep it easy on 80% of your runs and if you want to push it, do a short time trial, speed session, hill session or race to challenge you and keep running interesting.

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