Why running faster is not always better: 16 weeks for a faster marathon

From the book "16 weeks for a faster marathon", with author's permission.

Breaking the speed limit in a car is illegal, and it should be illegal in running workouts, too. In a runner’s mind faster is always better, and any run that is longer or harder than prescribed is considered an achievement.
However, if you’re following RunnersConnect’s or your coach’s training, running faster or longer than prescribed might actually be detrimental to your potential success at your goal race and your long-term progression.

Each workout, recovery run and rest day in our training plans has a specific purpose. To maximize the effectiveness of each run and to make the absolute most out of every mile, it’s important that you adhere to pace guidelines.
Here’s a quick rundown of common running workouts and why breaking the speed limit is a bad idea:

Why running faster during tempo runs is detrimental

When you push too far beyond your lactate threshold pace, you prevent your body from learning how to effectively clear lactic acid. Instead of becoming more efficient by handling a moderate and consistent amount of lactate, your body is flooded. It isn’t able to benefit from a prolonged period of lactate clearance. By speeding up, you don’t achieve the benefits of the workout and actually walk away from your tempo run less fit than you would have by staying on the prescribed pace.

Why running too fast during recovery runs is detrimental

Your body does not have an infinite ability to heal itself and requires proper rest in between hard bouts. If you run too hard on an easy day, you create more muscle tears than you’re fixing, extending the amount of time you need to fully recover. This can cause you to run poorly on subsequent workouts because your muscles are still fatigued. Keeping your easy days truly easy will promote faster recovery, allowing you to be prepared for the next hard session and produce maximum results.

Why running too fast during speed workouts is detrimental

During VO2max workouts and speed work, you’re asking your body to push its limits.
When running near your top speed, the likelihood of injury is increased since muscles are being contracted to their max while under duress. Your training schedule will assign workouts that hit your VO2max to develop speed, but keep you from going over the red line. Keeping your speed workouts within the given pace range will reduce the risk of injury and allow you to string together consistent training.

Our training plans are an intricate puzzle that pieces together different types of workouts. It maximizes the available time to prepare you to have your best performance on race day. Running faster than prescribed paces may seem as if it’s advancing your fitness, but you are actually limiting your progress and increasing the likelihood of getting injured. Before you step out the door on your next run, think to yourself, “What is the purpose of my run today?” This will ensure you stay on course and give you the confidence you need to execute a plan as it’s prescribed, even if it means obeying the speed limit.

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