Pace goals and weight woes

I wouldn't describe myself as a runner, and I am not a huge cardio fan, but I know it is necessary and for me running beats pedaling or getting wet. I have actually enjoyed it a bit more than I thought, and I could be tempted to put a bit more focus on it, although it is unlikely to replace climbing as my main sport. The main thing I am struggling with though is pace, and by that I probably mean 1 mile pace more than I do 5k, 10k etc. I have read a fair amount on improving pace through distance and better CV fitness, but the focus all seems to be on what I would view as long distances (5k+). Understandably the focus is also on people prioritising running, and less so on those who already have other primary fitness goals. This may be the wrong place, but I figured why not ask?

I climb 3-5 times a week, with a focus on bouldering. I also dabble in calisthenics. I am a little heavier than my ideal weight, and much heavier set than any runner I know except maybe sprinters. I am not opposed to shifting some weight, but I am not likely to look like a runner and I intend to keep most of my muscle mass. My background was in athletics, but it has been more than a decade since I last competed, and even then I was a sprinter. My mile time was around 5 minutes, but I never really did distances longer than that....or rather I never thought of them as something one might time. That was more than ten years ago and I was 2 1/2 stone lighter so I am not really aiming to replicate that.That said, I would like to get a mile under 6 minutes again and I like the idea of a sub 22 5k. This may not be realistic, but my reasoning is that I find running fast more fun, and I would be more likely to put effort in if I could get there.

I have been running for a couple of months now and I had thought about the c25k programme due to a history of injuries and no real background in distance, but I just ran a bit further one day to test it and hit 5k without too much effort. Before that I was mostly doing 1-1.5 mile blasts near my house. I now do at least one run over 5k each week (sometimes more sometimes longer), and I will often do a mile or so on other days.

The weird thing is that I am finding adding distance much easier than pace. I feel like I could keep going at around 9min/mile forever, but much under 8 minutes and I really struggle. I set off with a just over 8min/mile and whilst I couldn't push much harder, I was fine adding a 28 min 5k on the end of it which was almost like recovery.

I have had some breathing concerns this year, and whilst an inhaler helps, it does feel like it is breathing when things get hard that stops me. I initially put it down to asthma, or possibly long covid, but I am beginning to think I just had a much better base when I was younger and I carried less weight.

Anyway, long and meandering, but I was wondering if there are any think for running quicker and breathing easier that are not too involved. I would like to reach my goals, but I am in no hurry, although a bit of progress in the key areas might spur me on.


    You have to build the aerobic base and from that you can work on the pace.   So the slower running that you find comfortable is what lays the groundwork for faster running later on, that slower running is what will also improve your breathing.

    Running a mile on it's own isn't really going to do much for you.
  • Cheers for that, it does make sense as I used to play more team sports back when I did athletics so my base was probably strong. Nowadays running is pretty much my only cardio.

    Is there a point when I should expect pace to improve? At the moment all I notice is that the pain that serves as an injury warning comes later and later. Is it better to drop to sub 26min 5k (probably not too hard), or keep going for a 1hour 10k. Time wise it isn't the easiest to fit in many sessions over 30mins.
    Say for instance if you're running 3 times a week, do one easy run of a moderate distance, one longer run - again at easy pace but focussing on the longer distance.   Third run can be a tempo run, run one mile easy to warm up then next mile at a much faster pace, not flat out but challenging enough that you're grateful to drop to easy pace for the final mile.

    You can over time increase the tempo distance of that run.

    If you stick roughly to that format you'll improve your aerobic system and you will start to get faster, at the easy pace and for the tempo runs.

    But some patience is required, it takes time.
  • That sounds like something I can get on board with. I will go for a couple of 5k runs a week (one with a pacey mile) and another I will keep at the same pace as the steady 5k but keep increasing up to a 10k. 

    I am still noticing some pains from about 6k, so I tend to stop by 7/8k but I feel like I could comfortably push on if I had to. I guess I can stick at things for a couple of months before I start pushing it. 
    Where are the pains when you go over 6k?   

    Could it be that you may need more supportive and or cushioned shoes, or are shoes worn out perhaps?
  • I had a gait analysis and bought semi support shoes back in July. Then had a biomechanical assessment with a sub 3h marathon running podiatrist (brother in law) in October who gave me custom insoles. I was bought new shoes in November from the same source and they have done less than 20 miles.

    I have a history of joint injuries which is why I hadn't ran properly in over 10 years. Physio and yoga seem to have helped, and a couple of months of running single miles gave me a base to push further. When I started the short runs I initially had to watch for cruciate pain. With patience and decent rest this abated and hasn't returned. My feet always ache a bit, but it is the bottom of my calf at the moment.

    These recent pains seem to be soleus. In fact I did 7k just after my last post and I am now 90% certain I have a soleus strain. That was my third run over 5k in 3 days and after each there was loud crepitus at rest accompanying plantar/dorsiflexion when I had a bent knee which has made me suspect Achilles initially, but that wasn't where the pain was and the crepitus was at a different site (likely unrelated).

    I have been carrying and compensating for injuries for a long time which is a reason I always avoided distance. I also wear climbing shoes for many hours each week which probably doesn't help. Without those pains (and me exercising caution) I feel like I could easily run a half at the same pace as my 5k.

    Maybe I am just too heavy. I am 11 5 at 5' 7" although I do not intend to drop much weight as most my other activities are power based. 
    drl - well definitely not your shoes then.   Your aches and pains are not unexpected then, best to not increase distance or pace while you still suffer with them.   In time and maybe with some regular physio exercises that will improve.

    You'd probably need to rest if you have a soleus strain.   I've had that and was able to recover quite quickly, I used Kinesio tape to support it and that really helped as it's so difficult not to use the soleus in usual day to day living.
  • I took yesterday off, and I will today as well. Monday is normally my longest run, but I might go for a slow mile to test things out.

    I have recently tried transitioning to fore foot striking and I don't know if that would be a factor? It is definitely when I am more on my toes that I am conscious of the tightness/pain.
    drl- that would explain the soleus pain.   Changing to forefoot running puts a lot more pressure on the achilles and calf muscles.

    If you think your natural running style before was contributing to your other pains then it's worth looking at changing/altering running style.   But it's a very long process to achieve it.   Maybe start with just trying to run lightly on your feet and aiming to land on the midfoot.   When you are running faster you will naturally run more on the forefoot, so in a few months that may happen without you having to make conscious changes right now.
  • The fore foot change was suggested to me, and given my preference has always been pace it made sense. As I moved up from the mile and my pace dropped it has required more thought to keep off my heels. Because I have always ran shorter distances I had never really used the slower gait I fell into which is probably why it was sore.

    Given my 9min mile cruising speed I probably land mid foot rather than fore foot most of the time. I find it easier to run fast (at first) which is why I have been eager to build pace not distance but it does seem I will have to do a bit of both. Ideally I want to get to around 7 30 pace at least, as this feels more comfortable for as long as I can maintain it, but I am some way off stringing together miles at that pace.
    Because your background is athletics and you obviously have plenty of fast twitch fibres to call on, it shouldn't take you that long to be able to run 7:30 miles comfortably.   

    You just need to go through this base building phase to get your aerobic fitness back.
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