betterment running

Running in March

My last 5k, the Heart to Start, was on February 18th. I finished with a 38:01 time, which, to this day, I still don’t believe. This is 18 seconds slower than my all time fastest 5k race, the 2016 Shamrock Run, where I finished at 37:43. A 12:08 pace then, but my best pace was in 2013, another Shamrock Run, this time an 8k where I had an 11:44 pace.

I know it’s not the best idea to compare myself to me ten years ago. After all, these aren’t stupendous times; they’re the times of a big tall guy who prioritized heavy weightlifting over running (and then fell off the wagon, so to speak). But it is very fascinating to see progress in action. I started running again in October 2022; my first 5k race was waaay out of my league and my time was 51:28. I almost don’t want to compare it to now, but that’s where I started. So my time difference between that race and my last race is 13 minutes and 27 seconds. In four months.

The reason for stating this, I suppose, is to formally state that it is possible to get better at the thing you’re doing.

So now it’s March, and it’s cold as hell in Portland. We just survived the Snowpocalypse, which was a blessing for me; I have gotten to the point where not going for a run nags at me, and I desperately needed the three days of rest.

I upgraded my 5k in July, the Foot Traffic Flat, to a 10k. A 10.55k specifically, because it’s a quarter marathon. That’s about 6.5 miles for you apple pie and hot dog eatin’ sons of bitches out there. It’s taking place on Sauvie Island outside Portland and should be a beautiful run. But it also means I need to train. Like, now. I need to up my mileage methodically but gradually, so that I can run past 6 miles, up to maybe 8 or 9, which will make running 6.5 miles feel a little easier.

I ended up grabbing this 8-week training program from the Runner’s World website, which incorporated training 3 runs 3/week. Originally, I had the 5/week running plan, but it seemed a little daunting, and literally as I was writing this blog decided to downgrade. Right now I’m trying for 4 runs per week, and with the 3/week program I can just add an extra day, which will probably be parkrun.

That program won’t start until May, which means I have March and April to use for increasing my mileage safely. Enter: March.

The plan is simple: increase mileage by 10% every week for 4 weeks, and then the 5th week is for deloading, or running a reduced mileage (basically back to week 1). I get two cycles of this before my 10k training begins. The first week is this week, with the goal being 10 miles.

There largely (as of now) is no real other goal with the particular runs, other than to run them. I’m focusing more on mileage now so that I can have a basis for the 8-week plan, and thus, the 10k race. Last week I ended up running 12 miles total, which is insane, but the week before that was only 9, and before that only 7, and I think about 5-7 miles/week each week before then. So my mileage was creeping up a little faster than 10%, so I want to step back and make sure I do this correctly so I don’t hurt myself.

I’ve got a few staples in mind though: Mondays are Hard Runs, Thursdays are Easy Runs, Saturdays are Whatever Parkrun Feels Like and/or Race Pace (for when I actually run races), and Sundays are Long (Easy) Runs.

Monday Hard Runs will be a mix of interval training and tempo/threshold runs. I suspect a lot of intervals on the track, to be honest. It’s kind of fun to run intervals on the track. (Yes, 7th grade me, you heard that right.) Currently my intervals include 1 mile of running at a steady warmup pace, and then half-lap run/walk sessions for the other mile. But instead I’m going to run that first mile and then run for more like 30 seconds, then rest for a bit, and run again, etc, until I just can’t hack it anymore. Then, when I get better at it, I can increase the run time until I’m pushing myself for a minute.

Thursdays I hope to be dominated by Zone 2 runs. Apparently these are very good for you, as they help keep your heart rate low for longer runs. (And other benefits, I think — look, I’m still a beginner runner, alright?) Zone 2 runs are weird because I’m running slow. Like, real slow. For me, that’s around 13:30-14/mi. Slow enough that even old ladies are passing me by, and babies, and turtles, etc. And since I’m still getting in shape, I’m religiously checking my smartwatch to make sure my heart rate is staying below Zone 3. It’s hard!

I also think Thursdays will be some hill training, which basically means just running east, away from the river. It’ll be nearly impossible to keep me in Z2 for those, though.

Saturdays are parkrun and a couple of races. I’m just going to play these by ear. No need to go all out for all of them, especially those in which I have a race the next day. I may use them as a way to keep a steady 5k pace, including keeping my pace lower at the start, because I, like most people, like to start faster than I should. If I can even out my pace over the whole 5k, that would be awesome.

Sundays are the proverbial Long Run days for most people. I think most of my races are on Sundays so we’ll see if I just keep running once the race is over, or what. I might have to split my runs on race days, and then commit to longer runs on non-race days. We’ll see. But yes, long runs.

So, two cycles of this and then an 8-week plan to get me ready for a 10k by July. I totally think I can do it. In fact I’m eager to do it. In fact fact, my brain is a little more eager than my body; it feels like Captain Kirk to my legs’ Scotty. But it’ll work. And in 4 months you’ll see me with a 10k medal around my neck, come hell or highwater.