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Running less to run faster

I was nervous about starting to marathon train again.

2016 was all about endurance, but I’d decided that 2017 was the year to go faster, and going faster hurts. I decided to change things up this year with how I run. Anyone who has read anything about my training before will know that I love the Hansons Marathon Method – a training programme that has you running 6 times a week and maxing out at 16 miles. It worked for me twice: BQ-ing for the first time at London in 2014, and thoroughly enjoying the tough course at Snowdon. I was curious to try something new this year though. Yolo, etc, so I bought the Run Less, Run Faster book, had a chat with my friend and running coach Laura, and once January came around, jumped in feet first to running 3 times per week.

I’m running London and Edinburgh this year, with Edinburgh as my goal race. Having followed the programme now for 6 weeks (although I’ve gone back to week 1 again for Edinburgh – there is method in my madness, I promise), I have just about got my head around it.

How it works

  • There are only 3 runs per week: an interval run, a tempo run and a long run.
  • There are 2 cross training sessions per week, of either swimming, cycling or rowing. No, yoga doesn’t count.
  • The runs are fast. Run less, but run ever so fast.
  • The long runs are long. Run less, but run ever so far.
  • The idea is that you’re always running ‘targeted workouts’, and running with ‘purpose’ in every session
  • Each run is designed to train one of the ‘primary physiological processes and running performance variables’. In other words, the interval run works on VO2 max, the tempo run improves lactate threshold and the long run increases running economy.

Good things

  • It’s hard. There’s only one way to get faster and that’s running fast.  This programme certainly means you do that. The intervals in particular make my legs want to explode.
  • It’s time efficient during the week. Obviously it depends very much on how fast you run, but all of the interval and tempo runs will take less than about 90 minutes, and many under an hour.
  • It means you get to bike and swim and gym! I found with Hansons that my cross training and S & C sessions fell by the wayside somewhat, as running took centre stage, but with RLRF, there’s plenty of time for other things.
  • It keeps you focused. I love that each run has a goal. Whilst I do kind of miss my easy runs, where I could just switch off and let my legs carry me however they wanted, I do enjoy plugging into a challenging pace for every session. No faffing allowed!

Not my fave

  • The long runs are looooong. Week one is 13 miles, and by week 4 you’re up to 20 miles. Now, I really like running, but running five 20 milers is not something that I am particularly looking forward to…
  • It’s not for re-starters. It’s not got any kind of build up what so ever, and so if you were coming back to running after a long break, I really don’t think it would be a good plan to follow.
  • It’s hard! The interval sessions are really fast and make my legs want to explode.
  • It’s kind of complicated. There are lots of paces to work out and remember for each session, which for me always involves a lot of post-it notes and scrawly distance maths.

Six weeks in, and it’s going pretty well for me so far. I’m beginning to see improvements in how comfortable I feel in all the runs, particularly the long runs. I ran the Worthing half marathon on Sunday at Edinburgh goal pace, and it felt nice and steady. The next test will be at Cambridge, as I’d like to take a couple of minutes off my current PB, and it’ll be a proper measure of how I’m doing. I’m optimistic about this working out – it’s the only way to be, after all. I’ll just be doing plenty of stretching to stop my legs actually exploding…

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