Running Fast Racing Slow

by Cindy
(San Francisco)

running fast racing slow

I have got a problem. For my last few 10k-races I was able to run my goal time in my training plenty of times. However, come race day I could not reach my goal pace and had disappointing finishing times.

How can this happen and do you have a solution to this?
Many thanks in advance.

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Cindy,

First off, thanks for your question. It's interesting that you've been able to achieve your 10k goal times during your training sessions, but haven't been able to replicate that on race day. This suggests a few possible things, let's address them one by one:

1. Possibility of sudden drops in fitness
2. Impact of training too intensely
3. The importance of a balanced running program
4. Embrace the process

Possibility of Sudden Drops in Fitness

Firstly, it's critical to realize that there could have been sudden decreases in your overall fitness level. As I have gotten older I have become more susceptible to hayfever. Never was a problem in my youth, but the last ten years or so, I have a drop in fitness when Spring hits.

It took me a long time to recognise this.

I have had a string of disappointing races at this time of year. Not saying this is the case with you, but it is worth considering.

Impact of Training Too Intensely

running fast racing slow
However, I suspect that the drop in fitness has got to do with something else: training with extreme intensity.

Racing a 10k is hard. I struggle with keeping 10k goal pace for a very long time in training.

I definitely am not able to get near my 10k race times in a training session. You are saying that you run faster in your training plenty of times.

If you've been aiming to beat your goal time consistently in your training, it sounds like you've been running at a very high intensity.

If you are always on your smartphone non-stop without ever recharging, at some point it's going to run out of battery.
Similarly, overtraining can lead to your body becoming excessively fatigued, and when race day happens, it might not have enough battery to perform.

The Importance of a Balanced Running Program

running fast racing slow
This, Cindy, is where the rights and wrongs of training come into play. A balanced running program is crucial for optimal performance. Contrary to what some might think, running at full speed all the time isn't the best strategy. Your body needs variety and balance.

A significant portion, at least two-thirds and preferably more, of your training should be made up of easy runs. This is the kind of running where you could chat with a friend without feeling out of breath. It gives your body a chance to build up endurance without pushing it too hard.

I am assuming things. But I think this is a pace you do not use often enough; possibly almost never.

It's not the say there is no space for more intense running. But it should happen once or twice a week. Not all the time. Faster and tougher workouts include hill running, tempo running, or intervals.

Faster workouts will get your heart pumping and add the speed element into your training.

Every speed at which you run, from the easy jog to the full-speed-ahead sprint, fulfills a different purpose in training your body. When you mix and match them in a structured running program, you prepare your body to be balanced and versatile, ready to take on any challenge on race day.

Embrace the Process

running fast racing slow
One last thing, Cindy, remember that it's okay if you can't always outrun yourself. Enjoy the process of running training, of running consistently and slowly but surely getting fitter.

With more balance in your running you should get to race day feeling strong and fresh. And that should lead to better performances. I'm confident that with that approach your run times will start reflecting all the effort and commitment you put into your training.

Happy running and best of luck, Cindy. I can't wait to hear about your next big race!

Kind regards,

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