It is a classic tale, the tortoise and the hare, speed versus determination; however these two paradigms can be applied as approaches to running. Being a typical man, when I started running I simply wanted to get faster and continuously pushed to turn in quicker times on my runs. As I have mentioned before, I ended up over-training and having some knee issues. Now that I am back training, I am approaching running from the other side.
Alex has never been concerned with how fast she was running, but chose instead to focus on how far she runs. To date, she has never has any issues with over training or injuries (knocking on wood now). We recently did a run together (our first run ever together) and it was ironically liberating to have to slow my pace so we could run together.
This experience put a spotlight on the issue of speed for me. I continually try to push my pace (though I know I should be focusing on strengthening my legs and slowly inching up my mileage), so after that run I have committed to slowing down.
The marathon training plan that I am following has two runs a week for 30-45 minutes, but does not specify anything about distance you should run. I am now using these runs to focus on my technic (breathing, foot placement, stature) and am recommitted to slowing down so that they are not as physically demanding.
This new strategy can be seen in the couch-to-5k and many marathon training plans that incorporate walking as part of the program. Walking helps reduce the amount of stress on your body during a run, and can help people to increase their mileage more than running continuously can. This all feeds into the idea of slow and steady build up.
I think I am like most guys, and when you tell us to slow down or take it easy, we just want to get out there and rip it up even more. But what I have learned thus far is that the safest approach is one of slow determination. With enough training you can eventually morph into the hair, but we all need to start out as a tortoise.