Today was a day to celebrate slow and for this I have to thank my wife.
We don't usually run together, differing schedules, and programmes get in the way but today was an opportunity we could take. We ran the canal tow paths around Berkhamsted, which are nicely surfaced (i.e. like a clay tennis court rather than flinty and uneven), as well as being flat, and we ran at a very easy pace. In fact it was all very pleasant: the vegetation was verdant, ducklings were little bundles of fluff bobbing around on the canal, barge owners were fettling about in their boats, carrying out tasks of minor maintenance. The weather was overcast but was warm enough and carried the atmosphere of calm mistiness. In fact if you asked me to present a picture of England in repose I would give you this canal, right here.
We ran at a pace to talk easily both to ourselves and some people on the barges, or stop to help a lady get her pushchair up some steps. We could take time to look at the passing scenery. I ran a bit longer but the combined result was that we both felt refreshed after we finished.
It was especially good because I had quite forgotten about the virtues of the recovery-run. They seem to have dropped out of my repertoire and I tend to do too many runs at the same sort of middling pace. I always remember Mike Gratton saying that he thought most people ran too fast on their slow runs and too slow on their faster runs; and I know I that is me. Things seem to bunch up in the middle and almost all runs are steady.
Sometimes I just have to step back and relearn the basic lessons - again and again. Today was such a day and I will now do more of this type of session. However they are easy. The other side of the bargain means I will have to do other sessions at greater intensity. Gosh that is almost getting a bit hardcore.
I will console myself with something I learnt from Joe Beer at the Algarve training camp two years ago. He said you don't need to do too many hard sessions. Research with successful athletes showed they did a surprisingly high proportion of their mileage at an easy pace. If you think of an 80:20 distribution and you do 30 miles a week then you should only by doing 6 miles hard (and even that was not strictly necessary – and certainly not at my standard).