Training Balance: Going Fast and Far

George Bass Coastal Trail

I can shuffle out some long distances. The pace won’t get me anywhere near my goals. This brings me to the classic dilemma of most runners:

How do you balance going fast with going far?


Going Fast


My first attempt at 3 x 1000m repeats was a struggle. There wasn’t snap in my stride that I look for at the faster paces. It had been a long time since I really tried to run this fast. The running felt forced. I managed to just get within the pace range I was aiming for. It was the start I should expect.


The next week I wanted to add an extra repeat. As if 1000m repeats at between 3-5km race pace aren’t hard enough, the heat was on this day. 35 degrees Celsius was the highlight of the day. I thought I could handle it by taking the recoveries extra easy.


I couldn’t handle it.


The heat and intensity was overwhelming. All energy seemed to suck out of my body. I was disappointed. Deep down I knew it was a big ask. I struggled through 3 repeats. Each one slower than the previous. The 4th just wasn’t going to happen. To salvage some ego and get a better training stimulus I took a good rest in the shade, poured plenty of water over myself and ran a few angry 200m efforts.

In the 3rd week I felt redeemed. Not being able to finish 4 repeats last time,  why not try for 5?


Five it was. All on target. It is a good feeling being able to do more. Improvement in running is never a straight line.


Going Far


That’s only one part of the going faster challenge. Pushing up my VO2max pace is needed, but it certainly isn’t enough to reach my goals. I need to be able to run long. After all, that is basic concept of ultra marathons. The problem is I’ve given myself the goal of running ultra marathons on the fast side. This is where I am struggling.


What pace should the long run be?


Search the internet and you can find plenty of different guides and formulae to tell you how fast to run the long run. Unfortunately they are often gross generalisations or don’t take your fitness and goals into account. Is there an exact answer?


For myself there isn’t. I see the long run as an ever evolving tool to use. There are many different ways to approach it. It isn’t always just about time on your feet. I can do time on feet at very slow paces for ages. That may work for some goals, but it certainly won’t get me down to 4:27/km or faster for an ultra marathon.


Super slow is also very different to fast running. Slow running takes out the glutes and hamstrings a lot. That leaves those muscles under trained for when you try to race long at faster speeds. The solution appears to be simple. Run faster on the long runs. I wish it was that easy.


Training Balance


How much faster? How far? What’s the cost versus benefit?


To find a starting I point I plugged in some numbers through a variety of resources. Taking in some race times, looking through my Strava history and plugging the numbers into some pace predictors. Shooting back at me was the suggestion my long run pace should be about 5:30/km. It didn’t sound unreasonable. Let’s see if I can hold it for 30km.


Turns out I couldn’t. Not even close. I finished with my tail between my legs at under 27km


Trying for a slower 30km the next week worked a bit better.  I fell right off the pace beyond 27km. A lesson my faster long run pace was a lot slower than I wanted.


This wasn’t working for getting the length of the long run up. Third time around my approach was to focus more on kilometres rather than pace. In fact I ignored my pace. I made sure my stride felt like running and was removed from the slow, ultra marathon shuffle. As an added bonus I go to follow the coast line along the George Bass Coastal Trail for this run. Some slightly tougher terrain than my recent runs, but an awesome location to run. It helped get me through.



The balance point is moving in the right direction. I am getting a little faster. Just small gains over the weeks should add up to some substantial improvement. The difficulty will be in handling sustaining the speeds I want over long distances. When I first set the goal of running further than a marathon at the Wings For Life World Run, I knew it was going to be very challenging. I didn’t appreciate how far away I was when I set the goal.

Let’s see if I can reach it.


Training Balance going far and fast


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