Today, I decided it was time to try and get some speed work in. I haven't done any in awhile and my legs, although getting more and more fit, need to get back into the faster turnover of speed work. I set out to do a round of 400 meter repeats with a full jog recovery. This is what they looked like time wise:
1. 86 sec.
2. 95 sec. (WTF)
3. 86 sec.
4. 87 sec.
5. 85 sec.
6. 86 sec.
7. 87 sec.
8. 86 sec.
9. 85 sec.
10. 82 sec.
If it were gymnastics, we could drop my best and worst and I'm sitting at 85-87 seconds for the remaining 8 intervals! The intervals were important for me because it allowed me to test my left side and realize that the hamstring and piriformis, although not feeling great, seems manageable. If I can hit an 82 second 400 meter for my last in the series, I am pretty strong. That is a pace of about 5:28/mile. Also, it is important to get your body into different paces during training so that you are comfortable in different zones.
It is not beneficial to run the same pace all the time, especially if you race at all. There should be distinct differences in you recovery, easy pace, your tempo pace, interval paces, and even your long run pace. Once your body has spent some time at a particular pace, it can get used to it, thereby building a tolerance and efficiency during that pace.
For example, workouts that focus on fast finishes and running faster during the second half or end of a workout tend to train your body to run fast at the end of a race, even when you are tired. Familiarity with a faster pace can get you through the pain of the end of a race.
You may be saying, "I race very little," or "I run a 35 minute 5K, my pace is just slow, it doesn't matter." This could not be more untrue.
It doesn't matter your end times, everyone can benefit from changing paces. All runners benefit from pace change whether it's changing between 6-8 minute paces in the workouts or 9-11 minute paces, each person needs to judge pace within themselves, not against others that are faster.
I suggest setting up a chart, listing your race or training pace ideas, as rough as they may be. This is what mine might look like:
1 mile training pace 5:45-6:00
5 mile tempo pace 34:00-35:00
Long run pace per mile 8:30ish
Recovery jog 8:00-9:00 for comfort
200, 400m sprint interval pace 40-45, 85-90 seconds
Obviously, these paces are organic and can change weekly or not. It's all just a guide. It doesn't have to be perfect, as my 2nd interval shows today. It was 95 seconds because I was trying to settle in.