In the process of our recent move, we’ve been going through boxes that we had in storage during the 2 years we were in Houston. Over the weekend, I came across my old running journals… from college, my 20’s and even one that lasted through my pregnancy.
At the end of one of the journals, I had recapped my races. From 2002 to 2009, I wasn’t trying to improve. I ran for fun and usually raced one ten mile race or half marathon each year.
My training consisted of 3-4 easy runs each week, usually about 4 miles each. For half marathon training, I’d ramp up my long run gradually to 10-12 miles. I had no track days, no tempo runs, minimal cross training (and no injuries!)
So for memories sake, here were some of those prs.
First half marathon (2002)- 2:04
Several ten mile races – from 05-09, all were around 1:23, or 8:15 pace (I was consistent!)
Half marathon in 2007 – 1:51
There was a slight improvement the more I ran, but for the most part, I ran all of my runs (and races) at the same pace (you can see all my races here).
2009 was the year of pregnancy, and my daughter was born the beginning of 2010. That year, I noticed some faster race paces and I found myself wondering how much I could improve if I really tried.
I incorporated some speed work. I started doing more weights and cross training. I slowly ramped up my mileage.
And an amazing thing happened… I started getting faster!
In the fall of 2010, I ran a 1:49 half, and then a 1:45 half in the spring of 2011 and my first full in 3:44, followed by a 1:41 half in early 2012, then a 1:39 half in the fall, and a 1:35 half and 3:32 marathon last spring. Plus handfuls of 5ks and 10ks.
Sidenote- I know this trend cannot continue indefinitely, but for now, it’s fun to continue to improve and see what I can do. And I think it’s important to recognize that these progressions take place over years, not one training cycle.
Here are a few things that definitely helped me.
1) Follow a training plan!
This is obvious enough, but I kind of liked doing my own thing for years.
2) Vary your pace.
I used to run every run at the same pace or whatever pace felt good and easy. By mixing in just one day of speed or tempo work (and running easy runs nice and easy), you will start to see improvements.
3) Gradually increase overall mileage.
This takes time. Years, really. I used to be wiped out after a long 6 or 7 mile run on the weekend. My week day runs were never more than 4 miles. Now my week day runs are usually 6-8 miles, and in marathon training the long run goes all the way up to 20.
4) Add some cross training.
Not everyone agrees with this philosophy, but it has worked for me. Mixing in some weights, spin, swimming, elliptical or yoga/pilates has made me an overall stronger athlete and definitely improved my running.
5) Include periods of rest.
Sometimes you just need to back off for a week or two and let your body catch up. Your muscles and tendons adapt more slowly than your lungs to the demands we place on them (unfortunately) so if you don’t give them time to grow stronger, they’ll let you know and break down.
6) Believe in yourself!
I’m sure your training has progressed with time as well. Think back to some of your first distance and pace prs and how impressed you were with yourself!
PS- My friend Tia wrote a similar post recently on running to improve vs just running, check it out for more great tips!
Also, just a few more days to join the Fall 5 and 10 series or the virtual coaching group!
So what’s your story? How have you seen improvement over the years? What things have helped you get there?