“Distance runners don’t need to get faster, they just need to stop getting tired” – Matt Fitzgerald
When most runners think about improving their performance over any race distance they think about how to get faster. What we really should be thinking is how do I stop getting tired during races. This thinking and Matt Fitzgerald’s quote is synonymous with the way elite runners approach their training. It is mostly not about becoming a faster runner, it is about getting through an event reducing the effects of fatigue on your running performance.
Most runners suffer nerves or anxiety before a race, however not usually nerves at whether we can run the desired pace. Nerves before a running performance are often directed at the pain and suffering that runners go through as muscle fatigue sets in. It is not the speed we are running that is the problem, it is being able to keep running that speed as we tire that runners need to improve.
Your goal pace in the marathon for instance is not that fast for you. However it is extremely difficult and painful to continue at that pace at mile 24. The only difference is you are physically and mentally fatigued.
How can you stop getting tired?
If you want to be able to perform at your best practise makes perfect. If you want to improve your running, run more. Simple advice, but there really is no shortcut to improvement.
- Consistent long runs
If you want to give yourself the best chance at running well as you fatigue then consistent long runs are essential. Legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard used to have his 800m and mile runners complete 20 mile long runs every Sunday. These were completed at an aerobic pace and designed to have the runner build endurance. Elite 800m runners are no different to elite marathon runners in that they don’t need to become faster, they need to stop getting tired when they hit the home straight in a fast run 800m race. Quite simply, if you want to minimise the effects of fatigue during the business end of your next race you should be running an aerobic long run weekly.
- Aerobic mileage
Aerobic mileage means running at a pace that builds the aerobic capacity, this means low intensity, low heart rate running. If you want to improve your running, run more at an aerobic mileage. It is not the weekly interval session that will make you tire less but the repeated aerobic mileage. Increasing your aerobic mileage and sustaining this over a period of time will give incremental improvements. These will be difficult to see in the short term but over time the improvements will be able to be measured. If you need to skip a workout for whatever reason it’s better to skip the interval session and run the aerobic session. Remember, you don’t need to get faster, you need to stop getting tired.
These are two simple ways you can train your body and mind to make a small change in your running training. Almost every one of us has been guilty at some stage of running our easy runs too hard, shifting your mindset to believe you don’t need to get faster can change this habit. If you run your easy runs at a lower intensity you will recover quicker and be ready and motivated for the next run allowing you to run more often.
When you go into a race knowing you’ve done enough training you will be better equipped to deal with everything a race throws at you when you get tired. You may not ever become a faster runner, you don’t need to, just stop getting tired.