Posted on January 6th, 2018 by John Armstrong
If you’re following our training schedules and have said you’d like to run the Saturday sessions, you will see there are a lot of parkruns in the schedule. Some of them are marked as “hard” which means you should race* them properly, but how fast should you run the rest of them? The answer is: it’s up to you!
When there’s a parkrun in the schedule it’s your job to listen to your body and decide how hard to take it. Most of the time you should be taking them fairly easy, running them at your 10 mile race pace or slower rather than your 5k pace. But every now and again, you might want to test your fitness and see what you can do. Just don’t do this every week or immediately before big races. However, if you’re running a parkrun in the rain during a flu epidemic and suddenly realise you have a chance of winning* the damn thing, then don’t look a gift horse in the mouth: it may never happen again.
So why don’t I tell you what to do?
A typical running schedule tells you exactly what to do for every session, but in reality you have to see a schedule as a guide to what to do rather than follow it to the letter. One danger with giving an athlete a schedule is that they can become completely passive and just do what they are told without applying their brain. But to get the most from a schedule you need to interact with it and make some decisions of your own about when to push yourself and when to back off.
Here are some points to remember. They apply to every training session, not just the parkruns.
- If you are ill, don’t run. If you’ve got a cold, you will recover from it faster if you stop running. If you keep doing hard sessions, you can easily drag a cold out for weeks.
- If you are feeling tired, take it easy. Most of us have got tiring jobs and long commutes, so you can’t push yourself as hard as an elite athlete would do. Your muscles only develop when you’re resting between training sessions, not when you’re training, so rest time is key to improvement.
- If you miss some sessions, don’t try to catch up by doing them later. Just let them go. It is assumed when writing a schedule that you will miss some of the sessions, practically everyone will have to take a little bit of time out due to colds if they are training during the winter. So the schedule will still work if you don’t do all the sessions.
- If you are injured, don’t run unless you have received medical advice that this will not exacerbate your injury. You are playing a long game: it doesn’t matter if you have to pull out of some training or miss a target race; it matters a great deal if you pick up a chronic injury that stops you running.
- Don’t go to our track sessions with an injury.
It is a skill to adapt a schedule around your life and your fitness, but it is a skill that you are going to have to master to get the most out of yourself. I want you to learn that skill.
That is why I haven’t told you how fast to run every parkrun. And, of course, it should go without saying that you don’t have to run a parkrun at all! You can skip the session entirely if you’re not in the mood, or do a similar 5k session of your own later in the day. And if you like to get your long run over with on a Saturday because you have other godly or ungodly matters to attend to on a Sunday morning, by all means do your long run on a Saturday.
It’s your schedule. Adapt it to your needs.
*A parkrun is not a race so you cannot race a parkrun. A parkrun is not a race so you cannot win a parkrun.