Run Slow, Race Fast

I’m hear to tell you not being scared to run “slow” on your easy and recovery days is the way to go.

I want to highlight a specific athlete: Ashley Barnish. I’ve been coaching her on and off for three years. THREE YEARS? Wow. She was one of the first people we ever coached and is still with us today. I always brag on her and she is truly a dream to coach. The girls follows the plan and listens to her body.

Ashley came to us with a marathon PR of 4:05 and a 1:48 half marathon PR. The goal was to qualify for Boston. 

Two seasons later, she was qualified by 7 minutes and crushed her goal. She ran a 3:28. Blew the expectations out of the water. Because she was prepared and trusted the process. And then got tough on race day, right? You have to be willing to hurt on race day. You let yourself go there on workouts so why wouldn’t you go there on race day. Don’t be afraid to go there. Gotta get out of your own head.

But what I want to talk about is this: the average pace for Ashley’s marathon that day was 7:56. Got that? 7:56.

The majority of her training miles were ran somewhere between 8:45-9:45 pace. And the girl was not scared (and still will!) about running 9:45 or 10:00 minute miles if she’s feeling that’s what feels “easy” or “recovery”.

Did she do big workouts? Yes. But they were once a week. She also ran a good amount of progression long runs with marathon pace work in them. Looking back at her training schedule, I’m seeing 8 long run workouts with marathon pace work in them over a 22 week training cycle. The rest were all “easy” long runs.

Often times, people freak out when they see how slow the easy pace scheduled. But listen, these easy runs should feel EASY. Like, no heavy breathing, sing happy birthday fluidly easy.

Ashley B

“A year of mental training, 4 months of hard work, more 5am alarms then I choose to count, and the stars aligning resulted in a 18 min PR, a sub-3:30, and a BQ! Boston bound 2016, hopefully!” – Ashley

Ashley is running Boston in April and working hard. She’s got a big two weeks going on right now that will pay off on race day. Let’s all cheer her on- go Ashley!

So go run some easy miles and enjoy them for what they are. Don’t be scared that you won’t be able to run a minute faster per mile on race day. You can. If you taper right, and you’ve been the right workouts in, you can. Enjoy the easy days. No heavy breathing on easy days!

What do you run your easy paced miles at compared to your goal marathon pace time? Or Half Marathon? 


  1. Awesome job and interesting that most runs were well slower than marathon pace. Any advice on how to run slower training paces when I seem to unconsciously over-speed as the run progresses?

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Hey Pete! A good way to keep it honest is to make sure your working effort is just as low at the end of the run as it is in the beginning of the run. You could do a heart rate check as well- just simply stopping for 10 seconds and doing a quick check. On easy and recovery days you should be be able to fluidly sing a song!

      1. Thanks for the tip Lindsey. I think I’ll try stopping and checking my HR and see if that works. I know that slow runs are really beneficial. Thanks again!

  2. That’s so awesome (yea girl!). Slow is how you get fast, which is something I think a lot of runners don’t understand until they aren’t posting the race times they want. On my easy or recovery days, I tell myself that it should be so comfortable that I shouldn’t even be sweating 🙂

  3. Mary

    My best marathon is 3:54 and I want to BQ as well but thought that was too lofty to think but wow maybe I can someday. I’m just getting back to running after having a baby and an itband issue so I’m not doing much now but that’s encouraging to me.

  4. Good luck in Boston, Ashley!
    I definitely didn’t focus enough on the slow, easy runs. I woudn’t run fast all the time, but I never dialed it back enough. Hopefully, this time around I will make it a goal to run easy.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Good luck with working on dialing it back! It will be well worth it- not to mention slower, super easy runs are very enjoyable!

  5. If you asked me this question a few years ago, I’d say my marathon pace was roughly 7:25-7:45 depending on when you asked and most of my easy runs were between 7:20-8:15. No, I’m not even kidding. I ran too fast on my easy days for far too long. I’d occasionally have slower long runs or easy days but they weren’t THAT often. One caveat of all this, is that I didn’t get injured and I still kept improving (and pretty well) during those times. I wasn’t running high mileage (35-40 mpw was probably average with peaks in 45-50), so luckily my body held up well…cross training and strength training probably helped too. When it comes to easy paced now, it’s so much different, even with significantly faster race times. My current marathon PR is 6:47 pace and most of my easy runs are 7:50-8:30. I have days where 7:30 feels a bit more natural for easy (It’s kind of like my autopilot pace) but I give into that urge FAR less and don’t even think about it much. This allows me to put more effort into workouts and races, which is where the times count.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      BRAVO! Isn’t that crazy? Let’s talk about this tonight on the podcast!

  6. AMEN TO THIS! As a run coach myself, I preach the same thing and I’ve found it is SO hard for people to trust in the slow running. I am proof that the whole slow running thing works. I ran a 3:13 marathon (7:23 pace) with my easy runs at around 8:35 and my long runs often slower than 9:00/mile. Run slow on your easy days and kick ass on your hard days. You’d think slowing down would be EASY but for so many runners, it’s nearly impossible.

  7. Why do the fastest runners do most of their running at slow speeds? Because they run a lot, and if they ran a lot and did most of their running at high intensities they would quickly burn out. But you can also turn this answer upside down and say that elite runners run slowly most of the time

  8. Yoi Ohsako

    Hi Lindsay,

    My name is Yoi and I love Ashley’s story but I feel like I am starting to lose hope with my dream to run Boston. My BQ time is sub 3:15 (male 40-44) but I am trying to aim for a sub 3:10 to increase my chances to get in. My current PR is a 3:23:49 in Berlin (Germany) in 2015. My only problem is that not only I have to make a 13 minute improvement to get a BQ from my PR but now thanks to many injuries, my best marathon time is a 3:40:11 in Hartford, CT in the last 2 years and I have had some horrendous marathon times in the 3:50s since my PR in Berlin.

    I have set a goal of sub 3:30 for Hartford based on recent half marathon finish times but I cannot even achieve that despite running all my easy days slow and only going hard on my speed workout and marathon paced runs.

    Any advice on how I can start improving my times again so that I can steer in the right direction towards a BQ rather than just deteriorating at the speed of light?



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