Training for a “race” during Covid

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling just a bit stir-crazy these days.

So, being a runner, a couple months ago I decided to start training for a “race.”

“There are races?” you might ask. Well, no. It’s a race against myself — running 13.1 miles as fast as I can on a February Saturday all by myself instead of with hundreds or thousands of other people.

I entered into this training on a whim after finding the “Coach” feature on my Garmin watch. You plug in a race date and a goal time, and the virtual coach makes a training plan for you. You can reschedule individual runs if you need, but I’ve been sticking very closely to the plan.

I’ve trained for several races before by adapting the Hal Higdon programs, and I’ve set some PRs that I’m pretty proud of (1:33 half, sub-20 5k) with that method. But using this coach has been a game-changer for me for one big reason: It has forced me to slow down.

I’ve heard many times that the key to running faster races is to run more slow miles. You’d think that after 15 years of running, I would have tried that at some point. You’d be wrong.

With this feature, the workouts get beamed to my watch, and since it knows my pace, it can literally tell me to slow down while I’m running. It also queues up the next step of the workout and guides me through it. (Run at 5:30 pace? What the hell does 5:30 pace feel like …….. oh.) No static training plan has done that.

I ran over 100 miles in January, a personal record. Every week, I’m running back-to-back days (Tuesday and Wednesday), which I used to think was impossible for me. I’m running 10–12 miles on my long run every weekend. Last Sunday, I did the same run as two weeks ago — an hour of easy pace followed by 15 minutes of brutal speed/tempo work — and was shocked at how obvious the progress was.

Red = zoom zoom

“Coach” has very high confidence in my likelihood to beat my goal time. I don’t think my PR is in reach, but you never know.

My “race” is in a few weeks (Feb. 27, the day before my 39th birthday) and I’m really looking forward to the taper because I’m tired, and this has been hard — but in such a good way. I’m in my best shape in years. And it has given me something to focus on that gets me outside, relieves stress, improves fitness, etc. etc.

This is all to say: This thing works well for me. Endorse.

And to my fellow runners: Slow tf down.