Sarah Russell

Written by Sarah Russell


Are You Sabotaging Your Long Run by Running the Wrong Pace?

The underlying principle of any training program, regardless of your goal or ability, should be the development of a solid aerobic base.

It’s the fundamental structure followed by almost every elite runner, in particular that of Kenyan athletes who spend around 85% of their time running at an ‘easy’ or ‘recovery’ pace.

Mo Farah reportedly runs around 120 miles per week, of which 80% at an easy pace. No doubt he and Galen Rupp are having a good old chat as they run up and down the hills in Boulder. Not the picture of hard elite training that you might imagine? Well, we can all learn from their approach.

Yet this is what most recreational runners get wrong. Running ‘easy’ doesn’t feel right (or hard enough), so they intuitively run at a ‘moderate’ pace, kidding themselves they’re running easy. Struggling to hold a conversation, a heavy sweat, and red face post run is a giveaway that you did not run ‘easy’!

Running at an easy pace – and by that I mean well into the aerobic zone around 70% of your maximum heart rate – is actually quite hard to do.

You have to slow down A LOT and it feels like you’re going nowhere. But it’s important to stick with it.

In time (usually just a few weeks), your body will adapt, your pace will quicken (for the same effort level) and you’ll have developed a super efficient fat burning engine. So, stick with me here…this is the bedrock of your future training.

The long run can be a daunting part of training for a longer race, but if you follow the elite approach to easy running, you will be race ready in no time.

Why running easy works

When I work with my beginner runners, we just focus on gradually increasing the length of time they can run for, and build up consistency of training – it’s simple and it works.

This is not the time to think about speed and pace, it is best to just get used to comfortable running where your body can adapt, stay healthy, and develop an efficient running rhythm.

Too many training plans out there have you doing speed intervals, tempo runs, and hills when you are just not ready. Of course it’s important to include a little of this ‘high end’ work, but a solid aerobic base is the fundamental foundation on which you’ll build everything else.

Regular aerobic training will train your body to utilize oxygen, preserve glycogen stores by using fat for fuel, and generally become more efficient.

However, I estimate that at least 75% of runners – of all abilities – run too fast too often, and end up in the ‘mid zone’; training neither the aerobic or anaerobic systems correctly.

Many coaches, myself included, recommend an overall balance of hard/easy training (whilst avoiding the moderate zone), a method now becoming known as ‘polarized training’. The avoidance of ‘moderate’ training is the key, and runners focus on ‘easy’ paced running for the majority of time, with a sprinkling of really hard work (where you really can’t chat!) mixed in for approx 20% of the weekly mileage.

Not only do you train a more efficient fat burning body, but the benefits mean you recover faster, and can therefore put in some harder efforts, rather than being chronically fatigued from ‘mid zone’ running’

Recent research from Dr Stephen Seiler et al from the University of Agdar, Norway, backs up this methodology; finding that high volume, low intensity training stimulates greater training effects for recreational runners, in particular when using the 80/20 split of easy/hard training.

A conclusion backed up by the 2014 Salzburg study published in the Frontiers of Physiology, found that the concept of ‘polarized’ training demonstrated the greatest improvements.

After a 9 week training period, runners using the 80/20 easy/hard split had improved their ‘time to exhaustion’ by a whopping 17.4% and change in peak speed by 5.1%.

This group had completed 68% of their training in the low intensity zone, and 24% at high intensity, with only 6% in the ‘moderate’ zone.

So what does that mean for you? How do you put this into practice?

In a world of high intensity training fads, advice to slow down might seem counterintuitive, but it works The key to running further, and ultimately faster is to slow down, especially for your long runs. Easy to say, but harder to do. If you take only one thing away from this article, it’s this – faster is NOT always better.

When you first start out running, you’re likely to have one pace. As you get more experienced and your fitness improves, you will need to develop a wider range of paces. Your long run or easy pace may be 90 seconds – three minutes slower than your ‘top end’ pace.

US Marathon Champion Esther Erb likes to make sure she takes her easy running seriously, “I see hard recovery runs as an indicator of insecurity. When it comes to recovery, it takes more confidence to run slowly than it does to run fast”. Erb runs the majority of her easy runs between 8:00 and 9:00 per mile! Although that pace may seem fast, keep in mind that her race pace is around 5:45 per mile!

This is the key to building up your long run. Simply slow down – to a walk if you need to – spend more time on your feet and just extend the time/distance bit by bit.

How slow?

Using heart rate as a guide

But how slow is slow? If you want to be scientific about it, you can work out your heart rate training zones and try to keep your pulse at around 70% of your max. If you want to go down this route then use the following calculations:

1. Calculate your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR):

Women: 209 – (0.9 x age) = MHR

Men: 214 – (0.8 x age) = MHR

2. Calculate your Working Heart Rate (WHR) by subtracting your resting pulse (RHR)- measure as soon as you wake up in the morning (while still in bed) from your MRH.


3. Calculate 70% of WHR (0.7 x WHR) and add to your RHR. That should give you your 70% zone HR. This is where the bulk of your running, including your long run, should be. For the vast majority of people it will be around 130-140bpm.

You can also use our training zones calculator to assist you with this.

To work out your ‘top end’ zone, do the same but calculate 85%.

Using pace as your guide

If you don’t like heart rate (we don’t 🙂, then you can use pace as your guide.

Your optimal long run pace is between 55 and 75 percent of your 5k pace, with the average pace being about 65 percent.

From research, we also know that running faster than 75% of your 5k pace on your long run doesn’t provide a lot of additional physiological benefit. Therefore, pushing the pace beyond 75% of 5k pace only serves to make you more tired and hamper recovery.

In fact, the research indicates that it would be just as advantageous to run slower as it would be to run faster. 50-55 percent of 5k pace is pretty easy, but the research clearly demonstrates that it still provides near optimal physiological benefits.

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Additional Notes about Easy Long Runs

  • If you do not use a heart rate monitor, run at a comfortable pace where you can chat easily, without gasping for breath. If you can hear yourself breathing, you’re going too fast. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being super hard) you’ll be around a 5. It should feel really comfortable and the sort of pace you keep going at that pace for hours.
  • Forget about measuring your ‘pace’ and distance on your GPS watch at this stage. Focusing too much on your watch will only lead to you push on too fast, and undo all your good work.
  • Learn to run to ‘feel’ rather than keeping to a pace. Don’t forget, that ‘feel’ should be easy. Walk up hills, keep it steady and don’t put any pressure on yourself other than to go a little further.
  • Run with a friend (find one slower than you normally), have a nice chat, and check out the views. It might take a bit of time to get your head around it, but this is exactly the methodology that will take you to the next level.

You can also use our heart rate training zones calculator to assist you with this.

Those long easy runs – through the countryside or on the trails, with your partner or running buddy – are to be treasured. Use the time to catch up with your spouse or kids, explore new routes and revel in the joy of going long. There’s nothing else like it.

Now you know what pace to run your long runs at, check out the second part of this post next week, focusing on how to build up distance in your long run.

Are you guilty of going too fast on your long runs? Have you ever struggled with your training because you did not take your recovery runs easy?

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70 Responses on “Are You Sabotaging Your Long Run by Running the Wrong Pace?

    • Glad to hear that you enjoyed the article Darren. It really will make a big difference to your running if you pace your long run correctly. Let us know if we can cover any other topics that will help with your upcoming marathon! Best of luck!

    • Coach Tina already has it covered, but really glad you liked the article. Keep up the great work and good luck with your marathon.

  1. This article is so true. I have been training almost exclusively aerobically (using a heart rate monitor) and over that time my 5K pace has come down from 7:25 to 6:50. You might not think that’s much, but I’m delighted and I’m continuing to improve steadily. I was stuck on a plateau for so long (I’m 49 years old), I never thought I was going to get this fast.

    I get funny looks in the club because I seem to be training so slow when everyone else is hammering around. But I don’t want to tell them what I’m doing as it’s my secret, and my ranking in the club has been steadily progressing over the last year – I know they all want to know how I’m doing it.

    I’m wondering about this 80%/20% split of easy and hard work. Maybe I should be adding some harder work. What do you think?

    • Thanks Andrew, glad you enjoyed the post. That is great to hear, we always enjoy hearing about people improving, regardless of their age, and that is quite a pace drop! Hopefully you continue to see bigger improvements. It would be difficult for us to say exactly what you should be doing, without knowing what you are doing right now. It could be very beneficial for you to do at least one harder effort each week, but we cannot recommend exactly what to do without knowing more about your training. Hope this helps. We would be happy to help in any other way we can!

    • Hi Andrew.. really glad you liked the article. Thanks for the feedback. You are bang on with your training! so keep up the great work and ignore the ‘funny looks’! From a personal perspective, I know it’s easy to fall into the trap of just running easy ALL the time. I’ve just done a 100 mile stage race so all my training was easy. However I know my speed has suffered, so I’ll be looking to include a little harder stuff in the new year. As coach Tina says it’s hard to know how to advise you specifically as it will depend on what your goal is and also how you cope with volume v’s intensity, as well as a host of other variables. Some people find they can can cope with volume, but too much intensity leads to injury or illness. Others find the exact opposite. If the low intensity stuff is working for you, I’d stick with that and try not to complicate things too much. You could add in a bit of controlled/progressive tempo work perhaps once a week or every other week and see how you get on? but it’ll depend on what your goals are. Stay confident in your training methods and just listen to your body. Happy Running 🙂

  2. Thanks for your feedback.

    Just to keep you up to date, last weekend I had my first race with the club for a couple of months and I wasn’t happy with my performance. I felt like I was running in glue. I could tell what was wrong – my fitness had dropped at pace because I had done absolutely no harder fast running for two months. So now I am quickly adding one hard run to my schedule every weekend. With 4 slow runs during the week that means I’m following the 80/20 plan. I had great success in September using that method, I’m reading Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 book at the moment, and I’m starting to think it is the best way to train.

  3. Hi Tina,

    This is quite an interesting article as I, like many others I know, run too hard on average, certainly taking your article into account and it is very difficult to get out of the mindset.

    I run a 2:45 full marathon and a 1:17 half. I am training for a 2:45 at the VLM in April. My training goes like this:
    Mon: Easy 6M Recovery (say 7:30 to 7:45 pace);
    Tues: 6-8M with Hard Intervals or Hill efforts;
    Weds: 8-10M Steady run (about 6:45 to 7:00 pace);
    Thursday Temp runs (often 2 x 2M efforts at 5:50 pace or so);
    Fri; Rest Day;
    Sat: Maybe hill session, intervals or easy short run if racing or a tough Sunday run ahead; and
    Sun: Long Run (coach tells me to do these at 7:00 to 7:45 but I tend to run them nearer 7:00 pace or less) .

    I have just purchased a HRM as never really liked them and I was shocked my HR is always quite high, though I have been injured and so it has been coming down since back training, though on a lot of my runs I am still at, near to or sometimes go over my max HR.

    However, my VO2 max is back up at 59 from the 51 I was at when I started training again at the end of December and for my sub 2:45 marathon in September I was at about the 60 mark. I also run about 2,200 miles a year and most of my training is like the efforts diary I have listed above.

    I did a long run with a slower club runner at 7:30 average pace per mile and I was quite taken aback that my HR dropped so much just by training at 30 secs a mile slower.

    What are your thoughts on what I am doing above? I just cannot get my head round training easier or less would actually help me to improve my times, certainly not on the longer races I prefer (full down to halfs).



  4. Very interesting and helpful article: thanks for the reminders to run slow when doing long, aerobic runs (even when it feels emotionally harder to run slower).

    A question though: is there a point at which you can sabotage the aerobic benefits of a long run by doing it TOO slow?

    I ask because I’m training for my first half-marathon race, and in the past I’ve been one of those runners you mention (runs too, fast too often), so I’ve tried to radically reign myself in to avoid injury. This means that I’ve done some of my longer runs with my spouse, who is training for the same race but sticking to a “run-walk-run” method.

    (Functionally, that I’m running my long runs 2 or 3 minutes slower than what many pace calculators suggest for a “slow” training pace. My current 5k race pace is 7:00 min/mi, but I’ve been doing my easy and long runs at a 12:30 – 13:30 pace.)

    Doing doing a long run this way (especially via run 4 min, walk 1min, run 4) keeps the average heart rate way, way down—basically in the high end of my recovery HR zone—and it makes the long-run feel exceptionally easy, which sounds like a good thing based on the research you cite here.

    But is there any scientific sense on whether or not you miss out on the aerobic benefits at some point if you do your long runs at too slow of a pace, whether run-walk-running or running the whole time?

  5. Hi, really enjoyed this article and as a seasoned ultra runner I’m always looking at the best way to improve and this 80/20 option sounds like a winner. I don’t really run 5k but would guess a pace around 7 min mile, i do Tues tempo runs @ 730-8 for 7_8 miles and thurs @ 8_9 for 10, my Sunday runs tend to be 8_9 for 15_20 miles.I make up miles wed or sat at around the same pace I use a HRM and have had my HR tested 188 Max 48 rest I’m 42 doing around 3 50/70 mile ultras a year and a couple of trail marathons. I seem to always have injuries tired out and my HR seems higher than I feel I’m running. I think my long run pace is to quick and my tempo to slow by what you have said! Any advice 🙂

  6. I’ve been using 80/20 for about a year with great results. Would you also apply this to building mileage or should that be kept to all easy? I’ll be starting a marathon mileage build up in a few weeks. My question has to do with mixing in workouts during the mileage build. Is it ok to consider one workout per week or every other week while building mileage? Say tempo intervals or hill reps in order to keep some speed? For me the mileage build will be significant because I’ll be going from 25-30 miles per week to 45-50 over 12 weeks using the down week method every 4th week. This will be a lifetime high for weekly mileage. I can hardly stand the idea of 12 weeks of only easy miles. If workouts are not recommended would a weekly marathon pace run be ok during this time? Thanks.

    • Hi Eric, thanks for reaching out. As long as you are building up the mileage gradually, you should be okay, especially with a planned down week. The 80/20 method will also help prevent injuries. As for the workout specifics, it will not make too much of a difference which workout you do during that build up time, as long as it does not exceed 20% of your running. Hope this helps!

  7. Hi, i found your article really interesting and think i might be one of the guilty ones. I’ve just run a half marathon in 1h49 and in training my long runs were of a similar pace (8.24 pace). would i have got a better time if my long runs had been slower? My 5k pace is 7.48, so 65% of that would have me running long runs at 11.47 pace. That just seems so slow, i find it hard to understand how you get to train your body to run a half marathon distance at 8.24 pace or faster if your long runs are so much slower. I do an interval speed session and tempo run a week in training, as well as the long run. Will be doing some 10k races in the coming months so am keen to understand this more to get a sub 48 10k !

    • Hi Merryl, glad you enjoyed the post, and well done for being brave and admitting you are guilty of this…..we are all guilty of this from time to time 🙂 You do need to slow your long run down by the sounds of it, especially with intervals and tempos each week in training. It may feel slow, but it is more about the time on your feet than the pace itself. You may also enjoy our podcast with Matt Fitzgerald, he explains this a little more through the 80/20 running, with your workouts, you are likely already over the 20% hard. Here is the link; Hope this helps!

  8. Thanks for the great information. I’ve only been running for 2 years and have just completed my second marathon. while neither performance was abysmal, I know I can do better. Based upon the information provided, it looks like I’m completing the majority of my training 60-90 seconds faster than I should. I’m going to give your method a try as I gear up for NYC in November.

    • Thanks for the comment Mary, we are glad to hear you are listening to our advice, and it will help you feel much better when it matters….in the race. If we can help in any other way, let us know!

  9. Thanks for the article! I am training for my first marathon and have run a lot in the past but not in many years so I’m really not sure of my race pace. I’m running my long runs with some other women who have time goals for their marathon. I’m not concerned about my own marathon finish time but I REALLY enjoy running the long runs with them! We are talking the whole time….but still think that I may be going a bit too fast. (between 9:03-9:25 min/mile pace) . I know you can’t give me answers here but I’m thinking I’ll just see how it goes….if I can continue to talk throughout our runs and I’m recovering well… it may be ok? I’m only running 4 days a week. One of the other days has some speed in it. I may stop doing the speed day.

    • Hi Colleen, thanks for the comment. We are glad to hear you are enjoying the articles. If you are able to talk, it is probably okay. Just pay attention to how your body feels after the run, and over the next few days. For the time being you are probably fine to run with them, especially while you do not have specific time goals. If you are training for a marathon, you do not really need specific speed work any more, but if you sign up to our email list, we can send you more specific workouts for your marathon training. You can do so from the side bar or at the top of the page 🙂 Hope this helps, and best of luck!

  10. Really useful info. I’ve just started training for my first half marathon after many years of playing rugby and was struggling to understand the concept of an easy run – if I wasn’t sweating buckets and feeling sick then it didn’t feel as though I was working hard enough. I’ve just invested in a heart rate monitor/GPS watch and it’s really helped me pace myself sensibly (finding an experienced runner to train with would bring a similar benefit I guess. ). I’m aiming for two hours or faster. Maybe unrealistic but I’ve got four months to go

    • Hi Alastair, thanks for reaching out. It can be difficult to get your head around the idea of running easy, a heart rate monitor is a great way of getting yourself used to that, so you can learn to listen to your body. Four months is plenty of time to build up your endurance and get ready for a great half marathon. You may enjoy this post and we would love if you could sign up with our newsletter! Is there anything else we can help you with?

  11. I have been running for about four to five years now, I have been running mostly off road to prevent injuries from running on hard surfaces. With the long lasting snow and ice this past winter I looked for and found a good pair of shoes that has helped me get out on the road. I enjoy running a lot more now. I found your statement true about finding new routs and really enjoying the long runs. Recently I have been reading that any running over an hour is bad for your heart. Do you have a comment about this? A friend told me that keeping in the lower heart rate zones would work. This article seems to support that but didn’t address heart risks specifically. Would this “polarized” training be the answer?

  12. Former D1 NCAA runner here, I’m very intrigued by this. Just to give you some background, I ran the 1500m in the track season and 5 mile in the XC season. As a D1 athlete you can imagine what times we were running, we had Olympic medalists, American record holders, etc. on our team.

    Our workouts varied a bit in the XC season as opposed to the track season, but I can’t really say we had any “easy” days. Every run for XC was long and hard, combining hills, intervals, what have you. The “base build” was pretty much on your own in the off-season, and we put in probably 80-100 miles per week during those 6 weeks off, generally at a slower pace, but not that slow. For your reference, a 5 mile race would be at about a 5:00 pace, in my base building phase I would run around 6:30-7:00 for all my runs and for our team runs in season 6:00 or faster for our “long runs”. In track it was pretty much an interval session or tempo run every single day, with a long fast run on the weekends for recovery. Forgot to mention we typically did 2-a-days, so we would do a “slow” 5 mile at maybe 6:30 pace each morning before class, this being during the season.

    Basically, what I am curious about is, your suggestion, which I’m sure is backed by research, is very radically different than what I experienced, and what I heard my friends at other schools were doing. Everyone was running hard all the time, everyone was always tired, but then we had Olympians and All-Americans among us.

    Is your training really more for long distance running, say the marathon? I can just imagine the look on my coaches if I said I was going to start running at 8:00 pace…

    • Hi Johnson, thanks for reaching out. Yes, you likely did have some impressive athletes on your team, but as you see we also talked about some Olympians and how they keep most of their training easy, and have the hard days when they matter. College athletes are pushed to their limit, and that is why only a small percentage to continue post collegiately as most are either burned out or their bodies can no longer handle it. We are recommending this for runners (yes, mostly half and full marathoners) hoping to have a long running life. These are recommendations for most runners, but we are not saying there are not exceptions, some collegiate athletes are incredibly talented and can handle this, but most runners reading this will need to keep their easy runs easy to make sure every day does not end up a moderate paced effort. if you want to learn more, listen to this podcast episode with Matt Fitzgerald, he explains the 80/20 principle: Hope this answers your question. You do not need to run your recovery runs at 8:00 pace, but some days at 7:00 pace would not do you any harm.

  13. Thanks for the reply Tina. You are right, most of us burned out after college and don’t run at all anymore, save for the ones who made it at the elite level. I am trying to get back in after 10 years off so am struggling with coming up with a good plan to train for 10k road races and build up to a marathon. I went to a Big 10 school that produced exceptional mid dostance runners but we weren’t too good at the longer distances. I wonder if our harsh training contributed to that. Running then wasnt fun at all and I couldnt wait to graduate so I could quit running…

    • Johnson, I encourage you to read about Arthur Lydiard. His runners from tiny New Zealand swept gold not only in the long distances, but also 1500m and 800m in 1960. He was the one who introduced high volume, slow (aerobic) running to elite athletes. The Finland national team were a bunch of interval junkies before Lydiard got a hold of them and turned their training upside down. The Finns went from being competitive Olympic runners to gold medalists. Lasse Viren won double gold in the 5k and 10k at Munich. That’s insane!

      Just because athletes at your college found success with their high intensity method of training doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have been more successful with a more balanced approach to their training.

  14. Great article. I love the part about Erb training at 8-9 m/m. That’s a great eye-opener for anyone who thinks s/he doesn’t need to run slow. I was guilty of pushing the pace on all my runs. Plateaued hard. I then read Hadd and Lydiard phase 1, and everything changed. Articles from your site really reinforce why we should slow down in training.

    Question about your 80/20: Is this more for racing season or base training? My next race is more than 6 months away. My endurance is still very disproportionately bad compared to my 400m/1 mile speed, so I planned to run the next 4 months with 100% of the miles below 70% HRM, 1 to 2.5 hours per run. Then slowly bring back speed work 2 months before my race. But reading your 80/20 philosophy made me wonder if I should inject some speed work into my off-season training…

    • Hello, glad you enjoyed the post. It can be eye opening to see how elites train, and long lasting ones, not just those who make it through a season or two. Have you been able to take this advice to heart and slow your own training down? This is for both segments, but in base training, you can probably get away with running a little less than 80% easy as you are not yet putting the intensity into your training. It is not speed as such that you should be adding into your training, but more steady state efforts and fartleks. We explain it more here, and your friend Lydiard was the basis for this post 🙂 Hope this helps! Let us know if we can help with anything else.

      • Thanks for the base training link Coach Tina! I’ve managed to slow my pace to 65% 5k pace. I know you guys aren’t big fans of HRMs, but I’m using one for comparison, not so much to base my training around.

        I established my HRmax by doing 8x400m at 1 mile pace, then 800m as fast as I could go (not fun). My waking HR has been constant for the last 3 months. I never consume stimulants (caffeine, ginseng, etc.), and temps are still in the low 60s at 5am. At 65% 5k pace, I could talk relatively normally. My HR continued to rise for 15 minutes, then settled at 82% max for the remainder of my run. Although running as a % of 5k pace suggests I’m going slow enough, I’m concerned my HR was in the moderate zone due to my poor aerobic conditioning.

        Runners with well-developed aerobic base should see a decrease in pace of ~16s as the distance doubles. I’m nowhere close to that.
        My 400m time is 57s. With properly developed aerobic fitness, I should be running 4:33-4:40 mile, but my 1 mile PR is only 6:01. Using my mile time, my 5k pace should be ~6:30, but it’s actually 7:20. It gets progressively worse as distance goes up.

        Sadly, 65% of my 5k pace isn’t too far off from my marathon race pace. My point is, for people who have disproportionately developed their speed at the expense of their aerobic base, like me, and possibly like many other beginners who often push the pace too much, running based on % of 5k pace isn’t the best benchmark to use. What do you think?

        I may need to slow down to 50% of my 5k pace to make sure I stay in the aerobic zone.

  15. Hello Coach Tina,

    thanks for such a wonderful article.

    I am new to running and started pose method of running since one month. Currently I am doing only steady run. (trying to put my heart rate in 70-80% zone). However over the period of this month I do not see much improvement in my speed or cadence. (My average cadence is 77 and not improving).

    I do my training 3 times a week (tuesday, thursday and saturday) and each time I do a long run of 2-3 hour. Do you think that my long run every-time is okey Or Should I include speed workout in my routine? and if yes, how often I should do that..

  16. hi im currently training for a half marathon and have been steadily building my distance up im currently at 9 miles but my pace is set as run a street light walk a street light iv got 10 weeks until the event but feel nowhere near ready to run continously longer than 2 -3 miles yet would the slow pace help me acheive the longer distance im looking for thanks

  17. thanks for the advice and the links coach tina very helpful im determined to do it as im a bit overweight and have been getting some stick off the guys at work who are experienced runners saying i wont do it but im doing it for a charity for an extremely special little girl thats needs to come over to the states from the uk for an op to help her finally walk so a half marathon is my way of giving to her cause

  18. This is exactly how I’ve been training, intuitively. I’m getting back into running after injuries etc. I’m 46, and I run about 6 and 1/2 miles in 90 minutes. I’m not stoked about this time, but I am going for duration, not speed. My question- I’ve had a few high creatinine labs, which concerns me. How long should I expect it to take for my body to get used to my runs, to where I could increase time+ distance without worrying about my kidneys?

  19. Thanks for the article. I’m a 5k hobby runner, with an average 5k pace of 10:30. 65% of that for a long run would be around a 17 minute pace, yeah? Only I *walk* faster than that. So I’m not sure what to do. Walk/run intervals? Just walk for the long “run” days? Or does this article not relate to me, where I’m so slow already?

  20. Hello!

    I’m training for my first marathon using the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan. I’ve run a few HM with a PR of 1:29.52, but have no clue what an appropriate goal pace for the full marathon should be or how I should be pacing my long runs. I’ve been pretty gassed after them (the heat isn’t helping) with what I thought was too slow of a pace (8:30-9min/mi). Should I be pulling it back even more? I’m worried about hitting the wall during the race if I aim for a pace that is significantly faster than my training pace.

    Thanks for an interesting read!

  21. Great article and timely for me since I’m now training for my first marathon this fall and I’m getting into the higher mileage runs. I’m pretty slow – my most recent 10 mile race was at a 9:30 pace and my half marathon was at a 9:48 pace. I’ve been working recently on my running posture and increasing my step cadence to get closer to the 180 steps/minute that seems to be the recommended target, and that seems to be helping my efficiency. My question is, on the long runs where I should be slowing down considerably, should I maintain my cadence and drastically decrease my stride or should I decrease my cadence? I’m concerned that if I reduce my cadence for 80% of my training that I’ll not build the muscle memory needed to keep that cadence on race day. On the other hand, to keep the higher cadence during my long slow runs will require a really tiny stride to go that slow. What do you recommend?

  22. Hi
    Very interesting article and couldn’t come at a better time! I’m training for my first Ironman and for the last few weeks been heart rate training on my runs and rides. The biggest problem I have is keeping my heart rate in Z2 whilst going uphill. I feel like I’m almost walking up some long hills but my hr still goes up? I also find it hard to lower my hr once it’s risen so any advice would be great! Advice on breathing techniques would also be useful too please. When running at normal pace I breathe in for 2 steps and out for 2 steps but find this kind of breathing increases my pace and therefore increases my hr? Thanks in advance


  23. Hi there, awesome post and I think I’m guilty of this, I have recently applied for a position which requires me to run 2.4kms in 10 mins 50sec and going from no running at all to trying to do that, well I think I have been focusing on time and not on fitness level and slowly progress instead I time each run and feel utterly disappointed in myself when I find I’m like 3-4 mins off the pace and struggling to improve on it and finding I have to stop as Id be totally out of breath after 1.5 kms. Any more advice you could offer me? should I be trying to go further at a slower pace I take it? and slowly build it up after awhile?

    Thanks in advance


  24. Hiya,

    Great post which has successfully prevented me from getting any work done today because I then had to listen to one of your podcasts with Matt Fitzgerald and then keep researching.

    I’ve got a couple of questions though – Sorry if it’s in the article already, but where it says 80% of your training should be low intensity is that 80% of your time running or the distance?

    Finally, my recent training plans has my “easy” and “recovery” runs set at zone 2 (59-70% of my max HR). Is it a case of the closer to that 70% I train at the better or is it fine to just stay in the zones? – Although I’m fully aware you don’t recommend HR monitors 🙂

    Thanks loads, have been recommending this site to my running club!

    • Hi Matthew, thanks for reaching out. Glad you enjoyed the article and podcast. The 80% should be 80% of your time spent running should be easy, so other than the workouts of the week, you should keep your training easy. It is best to just stay in the zone, try not to become too caught up in the numbers (one of the reasons we do not recommend HR training :P), as long as you are within that zone, your body should be recovering, so it should be helping. Does this answer your questions? If not, let us know 🙂

      • Hi Tina,

        Yes, that’s perfect thanks. I ended up getting Matt’s 80/20 book on the kindle and am working my way through it now, totally fascinated by it all. Once I’ve got the Dublin marathon out of the way at the end of October I’ll be focussing on his methods closely to see if I get results.

        I’m still a little confused though, as my “easy pace” (judged by HR) is about 8min mile at the moment. Listening to other pod-casts on your site there are elite athletes who mention going a lot slower than that. My marathon PB is 3:19 so I’m no elite :)…but i’m not quite on to the practical of Matt’s book yet so will see how I get on then!

        Thanks again for the reply!

  25. Definitely something to work on!

    I’m just started running (distance) after a 22 year break since being a sprinter in college. I’m 6′ tall, 42 years old and carrying about 25lbs more than I need to. I’ve been running for around two weeks (have a 10K coming up this weekend).

    How do you run slow? When I try to slow pace down to where my heart rate/ability to talk is in the proper range, my form breaks down and my legs and knees take a beating from the shorter, pounding strides. However when I’m running at a comfortable pace/cadence for my legs then my leg muscles and lungs are burning. So I can’t manage much distance at all either way.

    Maybe it will just come with time as I get more used to running and get some of my fitness level back.

    • Hi Kevin, we have a few articles about this, which may help you understand what to look out for when running easy and

      However, it will just take practice. You could use a heart rate monitor, or just focus on keeping your form correct. If you are going slow, you do not have to think about pushing through, so it should give you some time to really think and focus on form until it feels a little more natural. You should be taking less pounding strides as you are moving slower, so there is less force from the speed. Hope this helps!

      • Thank you for the reply and articles. I want to do more easier runs but right now nothing feels particularly easy!

        I tend to turn over at a naturally higher cadence (168-170) so to run slow I end up with more of a plodding style and feel I’m staying in contact with the ground a little harder and longer than normal. Hopefully with time and as my aerobic capacity increases my “easy” pace will increase also, allowing me to have more of a natural stride.

        Having never run more than 2 miles (continuous run) prior to last week, I look forward to learning more about this foreign concept called distance running! 🙂

        Thanks again.

  26. Wow! Finding this website, and especially this article, couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m currently training for a half marathon (hoping to crack the sub 2hr mark) and have started wearing a HRM. It was a real eye opener as all of my runs were ending up around 80-90% MHR! I couldn’t believe that I was expected to reduce my speed so much that I might be walking. Well tonight I did my first easy run in the recommended zone 60-70% and had to walk even the slightest of uphill gradients – talk about ego bruising! But I’m determined to do this for the rest of my training and see what results I get. I like the HRM as my sense of pace is so whacked and my ego can’t argue with it. Hopefully as I get more attuned I will use it less and rely more on body sensing. Thanks for a great article.

  27. I’m training to break 20 minutes in a 5k.. any tips on what I can do? I’m running about 30 miles a week with two workouts and a long run incorporated in. My long runs are typically at 8:20 pace

  28. I’ve heard about slowing down and have never really bought into it. I’ve always believed “Practice like you play and play like you practice”, so my long runs have always been at a pace which I felt could carry me through 26 miles (race pace). I read your article and thought it was time to give this a try. I was surprised by several things:

    * I have been running marathon’s for over 10 years.
    * I almost never take a recovery or easy run. I’ve figured if I’m going to putting in the miles, I need to make them count.
    * The time between my marathon pace (8:00/mi) and 5k pace (7:15/mi) are shockingly close. I honestly believe that I am giving all I have on the 5k.

    * [(MHR –RHR) * (0.7)] + RHR = 70% Zone
    * [(180 – 55) * (0.7)] + 55 = 143
    * I did a 15 mile training run.
    * If I use HR monitoring, my pace calculates to be around 8:08/mi
    * If I use the formula of 5k race pace, my pace should be around 11:10/mi. (Confused how they can be so different).
    * My average pace (which was very consistent) for the first 9 miles was 8:08/mi. and my HR stayed at 143 +/- (my 70% zone).
    * After mile 9, I continued to keep my HR at 143 but my pace slowed.
    ** 10: 8:30/mi
    ** 11: 8:28/mi
    ** 12: 8:21/mi
    ** 13: 8:24/mi
    (I picked up the last two miles and pushed HR up to 160 so I’ve omitted the data.)

    * I was able to carry a conversation for the first 9 miles but not without breathing fairly heavily. Maybe a 7 of 10.
    * After mile 10, I cut back on my conversation after I was surprised how slow I was going.
    * I found that in the last 5 miles, my HR stayed at 143 but my breathing was much more labored even when slowing my pace.

    Am I broken? Have I done too many years of ‘mid zone’ running? Where do I go from here?

  29. Hi, thanks for the great article that backs up the results I saw in this past season. I had been a high mileage runner in the past but this year brought my mileage up to 85-90 road miles a week, with much of my recovery runs done in trails or in a pool. I did cut quite a bit of time from my marathon, but (understanding that race specific improvement is key to training for thay particular race) oddly my 5K time worsened by about 20 seconds per mile.

  30. Whoops, I somehow submitted that too soon. Basically my marathon did improve by ~35 seconds per mile (and that included being sick on the day of the marathon). But I was surprised that my 5k times had dropped, especially considering aerobic base still makes up such a large part of a 5k. I was basing my training using Pete Pfitzinger’s methods.

    Previous to this season, I was doing fewer, but faster, miles.

    Just curious if increasing miles and running slower could hurt times at distances shorter than the half or full marathon, or if I had been doing something incorrectly? Thanks!

    • Hi Amie, thanks for the support, happy we were able to help you see how important those easy runs were. Race specific training is very important. Running slower will definitely help you, as you will be able to run faster when it matters, check out these 3 articles to see why….this should give you confidence that you are doing the right thing! We shared three articles below with Scott, if you check those out, they should help 🙂

      • Hi,

        which HR for my long runs above 20 km (i am training for my first marathon), is right:
        70% of MHR (mine is 173 as I am 52 Years old), which is 120 in my case, or
        70% of (MHR-RHR)+RHR, which is 135 in my case ?

        You agree that 120 is complitely different than 135,

        Please make this clear for me, thanks in advance


  31. Just now found this article and read with interest. I have a question about sustaining 70% of WHR (120bpm) for my training runs. My HR is up and down like a YO-YO and it doesn’t take long to exceed 120. This is running as easy and comfortable as I can and yes extremely slow. Currently I am using a run/walk method trying not to exceed 120, but my question is should I not worry about that and if so what number over 120 should I consider.


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