Sunday, July 19, 2009

Long Run Dynamics

As part of the NY Flyers Marathon Training Program, a whole bunch of Flyers and I took the subway up to the Bronx to do a long run up in Van Cortlandt Park. Although I currently work just a few blocks away from this well-known running venue, I had never previously run there before. So when the opportunity came this morning to venture outside the confines of Manhattan for a relaxing group run on trails, I jumped at the opportunity (even if it meant having to get up at the crazy hour of 5:30AM on a Sunday morning!) The group gathered promptly at the signature Tortoise & Hare statue (where the weekly cross-country races starts and finishes) and after some pre-run instructions from our fierceless leader GW, we guided ourselves over the cinder tracks and into the park.

There were about twenty of us out there this morning, each hoping to hammer out about 11-13 miles on the trails. Since I wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t want to get myself or others lost, I hung back for the first part of the run and was content to just follow the crowd. Although the first section was steep and hilly (or so I was told afterwards), I was moving so effortlessly slow (~9:00 pace) that the elevation gain hardly registered with me. All I knew was that everytime I reached the end of a hill, I found myself no longer involved in the conversation I was having just a few seconds ago. I would then introduce myself to the next person and inevitably the cycle would repeat again at the next uphill. By the end of the first out-and-back loop, which was about three miles, give-or-take, I was once again running with the leaders, exactly where I knew I’d be from the get-go.

I stayed with this first group through the rest of the run, never pushing the pace or falling behind by too much. Although the established pace was leisurely at the outset, our lead group of 4 was really booking it on the way back to the start, leading one girl to say “hey guys, we’re now running at my half-marathon pace.” By the time we returned from our second out-and-back loop through a different and much longer section of the trail which leads into Westchester, we had completed 13 miles. I left the group at the end and polished off one last loop around the park, finishing the day with 14.4 miles at 8:04 pace, and pushing the grand total to 48.6 miles for the week.

After the run, one of my partners in crime asked me whether I prefer doing long runs solo or with the group? It was an intriguing questions and one that I’ve wrestled with for a long time. On the one hand, I love running with the Flyer group because the miles seem to just melt away with the eclectic conversations. The group dynamics also help to keep my long runs at a slow and steady pace. On the other hand however, since my natural pace is faster than almost anyone else on the Flyers, I must run alone to practice my own pacing for the marathon. Also, when NOT running with the group, I can get up at my own convenience and design my own running course for the day. Eventually, the deciding factor to whether I will run with the group or not will be dictated by the training plan and convenience. If I had my choice, I’d prefer running the first half of the long run with a group and the rest by myself.

Week 1 Training Summary
Mon – 6.1M General Aerobic Run; Average Pace – 7:08
Tues – 10.2M with 4M Tempo Run; Average Pace – 7:13
Thurs – 12.8M Mid-Week Long Run; Average Pace – 7:29
Fri – 5.1M Recovery Run; Average Pace – 7:30
Sun – 14.4M Long Run; Average Pace – 8:05

Weekly Total – 48.6 Miles; Average Pace – 7:34


Susan said...

I am decidedly torn on whether I like group runs or solo runs...I can get so lost in my thoughts that some runs just fly by, but other times it is nice to get caught up in a conversation with running buddies. If only you could tell what type of run you are going to have before you head out!

Jamie said...

To shake up my Chicago Marathon training, I recently ran the NY Marathon Long Training Run #1 in Central Park. The run costs $15.00 if entered ahead of time and a little more to pay on the spot. The run is billed as a “noncompetitive” 6-20 miler.
The run consists of 4 loops; one 6 mile loop, two 5 milers and the last loop of 4 miles. Water is provided throughout the run. At mile 6, 11, 16 and 20, Gatorade and pretzels are provided. GU is located at miles 11, 16 and 20 (does anyone actually down a GU at the end of a run?)
The run starts about 20 minutes late. The course is hilly throughout.. Each mile is marked. The sun is blazing hot. Then, we run into luxurious, jade colored shade. The sites that keep my mind off the miles: the Lennon/Ono Dakota, the stately Met, the newly spiffed up Guggenheim, the jewel-like Reservoir and the Fred Lebow statue (checking his watch.)
Unlike most races, the pace groups are well-defined. The event organizers purposefully create time and space between each pace group. It’s a good thing because there are no pace balloons or identifying markers. When I inevitably slow, it’s as if a herd of caribou are behind me.
Most of us end our run after the third loop, at mile 16. Unlike a race with a definite finish, this run allows my running devil to go wild; “stop now, it’s hot and hilly. Quit while you can; with a modicum of dignity!”

bill carter said...


I end up doing a great deal of my running by myself for that same reason. Not really anybody at my pace. But I do run with the Brooks Hanson guys on fast Thursdays now and they have a couple guys who can run away from me at any time. And I have to admit that I like that and think it will help me in the long run.

Take care Lam.

Running and living said...

This is a timely post for me. I used to comfortably run with my running moms group, and trained for Boston with 2 friends. But, now they can't keep up, even in my long slower paced runs. My compromise is, too, to run 1/2 of my long runs with them, and push the pace toward the end. Still, although I am happy I am faster, I wish I could still have the same pace as my friends...Ana-Maria

NY Wolve said...

I generally run by myself because it fits best in my schedule. I do enjoy a group run occasionally, and have run several long runs with them. But solo runs allow me to start when I want, run at my own pace, and zone out if I want to.

J said...

i have found over 9 miles i like to run with a group and i like to run slower. that way i enjoy the running and its less painful on my little knees!

Robert James Reese said...

There definitely is some give and take to running with partners or a group. I'd be hard pressed to say that one is better than the other. I like mixing them up too, although, I generally don't mix within the same run -- If I start with others, I usually finish with them too.

Spike said...

always a difficult decision. I tend to run my long runs alone, but really enjoy running with a group (even if my pace is slower). plus, generally, faster runners tend to be competitive and it can turn a long run into a long race...

aron said...

i completely agree... i am also torn for the same reasons, but i do love having company and it makes the miles fly by! its also helped me to slow down my pace when running with friends. i think i am going to be doing a little of both :)

sRod said...

I like mixing it up between group and solo. Although during the summer I gravitate toward solo runs because I don't want to wait until the group run starts at 9am (too hot).

lindsay said...

i'm like everyone else - i like both! i'll run with others whenever i get a chance (rare), so i still have plenty of chances to run on my own/at my own pace. sounds like you should join them some weeks, and run solo others. best of both worlds :)

if 7:something is pedestrian, what's ~9:00? ;)

Run For Life said...

I agree that a balance between the two is nice. Sounds like a lovely run!

JoeGarland said...

There's a saying: If 6 guys run together, at least 5 are running the wrong pace. I still like to run with others, but it is extremely rare. I'm well on the slow-end of my current Club, but I run with them once in a blue moon. Otherwise I'm on my own.

Also, I did a post referring to this one and to coming up to Westchester to run.

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