Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Progression Runs

Week 7/10 to Marathon

Let’s be honest, marathon training can be a bit of a drag even for the most disciplined superhero-runners sometimes.

Interested in getting oodles more fun with less recovery time than the work of normal long steady runs? Then I present to you my recently learned and adapted training secret!

How to become one step closer to achieving global domination, STEP No. 5: Carry yourself like a winner. Or in the words of Jens Voigt, “Shut Up Legs!”

Well actually after doing a little more research, I learned that the secret already exists in structured formats and is well-known to the running world, officially known as ‘progression runs’. More on this later.

The 28km run I did last Sunday started innocently unstructured enough. My original plan was to get some easy feel-good mileages in along the most continuous route, since my marathon was coming up in less than 3 weeks. I started on the Central Valley Greenway and slowly ran to the Olympic Village False creek area and eventually connecting up to the Stanley Park Seawall.

I was holding between 4:30 and 4:55 per km pace for the most part. Alas, that quickly changed halfway on route along the Seawall. I heard these monstrous footsteps behind me slowly bridging the gap. Normally it's a little kid trying to chase me down on his/her bike.

For the next 4 kilometres, this became a friendly wordless-exchanged battle between David and Goliath.

I instinctively ran slightly faster (about 4:15s) to reduce the noise pollution of these monstrous footsteps; however no luck. The footsteps followed, so I tried slowing down (to about 4:25s). The middle aged man ran ahead, and I wasn’t just going let him go that easily, so I was inspired to keep his pace at 4:15s.

After the 4 kilometres I eased up and had a quick water break at the aid station. I noticed that the middle aged guy also eased up, perhaps waiting for me to cling back on his pace. Anyways for the next 2 kilometres, I ran ahead of him and averaged 4:17s. Not too shabby for what was already 26 kilometres in. It was still a controlled pace, yet at a race pace intensity (in other words, it wasn’t my all-out pace).

I finally broke the silence and said, “great pace there buddy!” I learned that he was training for New York Marathon and he had 16 more kilometres to go. At this point as if I wasn't listening, my legs were screaming STOP STOP STOP!

When we separated off, I quickly realized that I had to slow down to 5:30 pace as there was no more help with the sound of footsteps.

So to recap, the last 6km was slightly faster than race pace for about 20% of the 28km run. Did a cool down afterwards and enjoyed a slushie.

There’s a great article on structured Progression Runs at McMillan Running.

The article classifies three different types and ironically I ended doing something very similar to DUSA. I did an 8.5 km recovery run the next day with UBCTC and my legs still felt moderately fresh. It was a great experience; I have to start simulating my own progression runs in the future now. =)


  1. oh Winstorm... you and your slushies. I'm curious if we were in a race and there was a slushie-machine that was off-course would you take a break and grab one? NOTE: You cannot run back to it afterwards :P

  2. Ah awesome, can I head back to the run if I had two slushies then?

    You know there's a 7-11 in Penticton on route the bike course towards T2? =D