I have always said that I only have one pace and that pace is marathon pace. My times only vary from approximately a 7:00/mile pace for the 5K to an 8:00/mile pace for the marathon. When I started working with a coach and she would review my pacing and heart rates she would send me emails saying I was a complete anomaly. Yes, I can run a whole marathon in zone 4. And not only does my speed increase over the longer distances, my heart rate tends to drop as I get faster. Weird.
Currently I'm not working with a coach so I needed a plan to follow. I chose the Run Less, Run Faster program because (a) you only have to run three days a week and (b) it works. The RLRF program follows the FIRST training program. I've got to be honest, I didn't read the book, but my husband did and he's a smarty and he said it totally makes sense and it totally works. He went from being about a 1:50 half marathoner to a 1:43 just by following the plan. So, I thought I would give it a try. The plan starts out with a test of three miles and then your training progresses based on what you paced in that three miles. My three miler was actually a 5K in which I ran a 21:35ish. Based on a 21:35 my paces should be as follows:
Half Marathon: 7:40 (1:40:30 finish time)
Marathon: 8:00 (3:29:45)
Here's the kicker. That time I ran in the 5K was a PR for me but I had already run a half marathon (1:38) and full marathon (3:29:28) faster.
So then in my last half marathon I ran a 1:39:52 (7:37 pace), which moved my 5K time to a 21:25 (6:53 pace). It's not so much that I can't run a 5K in that time because I probably can, it's that it changes all my speed workouts to just incredibly fast speeds. 400s are in the 1:33-1:34 range (6:15ish pace); 1600s are between 6:36 and 6:39; tempo runs are between 7:11 and 7:26; long runs are usually between 7:57 and 8:07.
All of this very doable. But here's where things get complicated...
I mentioned in the middle of a recent post that I signed up for a marathon in late summer/early fall. So far, I've had a great season of running and really think there are some big races ahead of me. I really think I could have a breakthrough performance in the marathon this year and that's why I signed up. My goal? 3:25 or better, which is a 7:49 pace. That's totally doable. But throwing that into the RLRF program looks like this...
Marathon: 7:49 pace
Half Marathon: 7:27 pace
5K: 6:47 pace
Tempo: 7:04-7:34 pace
400s: 1:31-1:32 (6:04ish pace)
Seeing those on paper scares me. While I think it makes sense that you *should* be able to run that fast at the shorter distances to run that pace for a marathon, my body seems to think otherwise. Is my head in the way of running faster at the short distances? Is it weird that I can run a marathon nearly as fast as any of the shorter distances? Is a 3:25 unrealistic? I don't know, but I'll be finding out very shortly. Training starts in two weeks.