Are you a 2 speed runner?

I realised after my run on Tuesday that I’ve slipped back into an old, costly habit. I’ve become a 2 speed runner again. My 2 speeds are go and stop.

I once did a “quick 10 miler” not race pace but not far from it. I finished in 74 minutes 5 seconds. A week later I fancied a “slow plod” did 10 miles again and finished in 74 minutes 34 seconds. Well done me, making an effort to run slowly and managing to slower by less than 30 seconds over 10 miles.

There is a downside to this. My 2 speed nature played a part in my ITB issues. I ran my long slow runs at the same pace as nearly every other run and it took its toll. I found it incredibly hard to slow down. My changing point was the marathon training. Running 4-5 times a week and doing interval training forced me to both speed up (to less than 6 minute miles for speed work) and slow down (to over 8 minute miles for distance work). But a break from this training during my post marathon recovery has seen me drift back to old habits and I’ve found the ITB tightness has drifted back too.

Tuesday, running in beautiful sunshine, I stuck to my ‘usual’ speed, a fairly rigid 7:20 per mile. By mile 6 the knee was tight, I tried to slow but couldn’t, by mile 7 I decided to stop and walk the remaining 1.5 miles in the sun.

The problem with a consistent speed is that the stresses on the body remain fairly uniform, especially on a flat, hard surface like concrete. The same areas get stressed over and over again and, not surprisingly, my ITB took the brunt of it.

Today the weather wasn’t so nice but I ran anyway.

I made a conscious effort to vary my speed. I started at between 8 and 8:20 per mile. It felt great. I was cruising, my favourite part of running. When you feel like you can keep going for hours. You can admire the scenery, even phone your mum as you run! I kept that going for 2 miles then picked up to around 7:50. At 3 miles the weather sped me up! I was running against the wind and it started to rain. I turned to head back, realised I was getting soaked and sped up.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike running in the rain. In fact I quite like it. It makes you feel alive, but if my phone gets wet it makes it feel very dead! So with the wind behind me and rain lashing at my side I sped along at between 6:30 and 6:50, which was not easy considering I now had my phone in my pocket and was holding it to stop it bouncing up and down. 3 miles at this pace and I reached mile 6 pain free, although totally soaked. I opted to stop rather than push until things got sore and then treated myself with a baguette, packet of crisps and hot chocolate, stood in the cafe like a numpty wearing wet shorts and a bright yellow wind stopper!

Nothing has changed in 2 days but my running speed, interesting how different my knee feels….have a think are you a 2 speed runner? Could changing this help reduce your running injuries?


13 thoughts on “Are you a 2 speed runner?

  1. Hmm, I think you might have made me rethink my training. I’ve been meaning to change but I do a slow (longer) run, then two other faster (shorter) runs. I’ll have to rethink that. I know one thing, the weather is making my ankle break from last year bad today!

      • I broke it the beginning of May 2011, I started cross training again in September time. I started running proper again in January this year. I’d forgot about the break until I realised were the pain was coming from last night. I still do all the exercises the physio gave me, I’m paranoid like that!

    • Hi Clark,
      I think the solution is plan some variety in your training and try and stick to whatever speed you set for that session. It’s easier if you have a GPS watch or running app that measures speed. 
      If I don’t plan something I’ll just do each session at that same speed. Instead I’m trying to think about each run. Could be a recovery run, which would be very slow, feels hardly worth getting changed for maybe 8:30 to 9 minute miles for me. Long slow run – longer distances 10 miles plus, at a pace I can easily talk 8 to 8:30 per mile. A tempo run, variable distance (up to 10 miles) at a challenging but manageable pace – 6:30 to 7:15 min miles depending on distance. Interval training shorter bursts of between 200 metres and 1.5 miles at 5:45 to 6:30 mins per mile.
      That’s what works for me but everyone will be different. You can calculate some of the speeds for yourself using a Macmillan calculator.
      Hope that makes sense

  2. After reading this I managed a run/walk of 5 miles today, without pain while running. There is some pain now, does this mean I over did it?

      • Yes, a few marathons (I was training for a 50m at the end of July) but that’s the longest I’ve managed in 3 weeks, and the ‘secret’ was to slow down and shorten my stride.
        If I can run pain free, should I include this (in moderation, and accepting the risk of re-injuring my ITB) as part of the rehab?

      • Hi Pete,
        If you can run pain free then yes, it’s a good part of your rehab. You’ll probably find you can gradually increase your mileage and speed using this method. It’s a temporary way to reduce load on the ITB while allowing you to run. I find as CV fitness improves you can run further with less pain. As you can see in this post my knee was tightening after 6-7 miles. I did 11miles on Sunday with only a slight ache, despite tackling hills and a headwind!

  3. Excellent news Tom. I’ve been cycling instead to maintain CV fitness, but feel this may be tightening my hips so I’m going to give it a rest this week.
    Thanks for the feedback, and a great site. Keep up the good work 🙂

  4. Pingback: How to avoid training error – 8 top tips | RunningPhysio

  5. Pingback: How to avoid injury through training error – 8 top tips | RunningPhysio

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