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“Faster than Easy” Running

Having already dealt with easy running to gain a base of aerobic fitness, fast repetitions to improve running economy, longer intervals to improve aerobic capacity and tempo runs for the lactate threshold, I turn today to the least known form of training. There’s really no good name for it. Jack Daniels calls it “marathon pace training” but it’s useful even for those who aren’t planning on running a marathon. To others, it’s known as “high aerobic” or “fast aerobic” training. For lack of a better term, I’ll go with “fast aerobic”. It’s faster than your easy pace, but not as fast as your threshold pace. It sounds confusing, but it doesn’t have to be.

Fast aerobic training is good for changing things up every once in a while. It provides more stress than your body may be expecting on a given day, but it doesn’t require the kind of recovery that a tempo run or interval session does. In addition, some days you just feel good and you want to go faster than your “easy” pace might prescribe. On those days, running at fast aerobic pace can satisfy your craving for speed without ruining your speed workouts later in the week.

I’ve described easy pace as “a pace in which you can easily converse with a running partner”. Your fast aerobic pace is one in which you can still hold a conversation, but you might need to stop talking and take a couple of deep breaths every once in a while to reset your breathing rhythm. If your easy pace is 10 minutes per mile, your fast aerobic pace is about 8:30-9. You should be able to hold the pace easily for several miles. If you are a marathon runner, then it’s just about your marathon race pace.

Fast aerobic runs are typically long. Those training for a marathon might use the fast aerobic pace as a change of pace for a medium-long run of 10 miles during the week. Others might work the fast aerobic pace into their long runs. For example, if you were performing several weeks of 12-mile long runs training for a half marathon, you might add 8 miles of fast aerobic pace in the middle of the third week’s 12-mile run. Marathon training programs often “step back”, or reduce mileage every third week. A great way to test your fitness is to run two weeks with 20-mile long runs at your easy pace, then step back to 18 miles on the third week. For the 18-mile run, complete the first 12 miles at your easy pace, then kick up to your fast aerobic pace for the final 6 miles. You can follow a similar pattern in any plan that has a step back week.

Although you’ll rarely use fast aerobic pace runs if you primarily race short distances, they are still a nice change of pace for days when you feel good on a long run. If you’re training for a marathon, then these race pace runs should be a key component of your plan.

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Brian Darrow is a running coach in St. Petersburg, FL who specializes in online coaching for beginners. Follow him at

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