Everything you need to know about Strides.

Running lingo can be a little bit confusing to a new runner, or even someone who has been in the running world for years! You hear all these terms… fartlek, threshold, strides and go what the heck?! I just want to run! But these terms all have benefit and meaning to help you improve as a runner. Today, let’s focus on Strides.

So, strides. What are they?

Strides are usually performed as a series of quick surges of fast running, typically short in length, followed by full recovery. They are a pre-cursor to doing more advanced speed work. Typically you will perform 4-6 strides of about 100 meters (or 15-20 seconds).

What benefits to strides provide?

  • Improved cadence: Typically, the faster you run you quicker your leg turn over, thus increasing your cadence. Increasing your cadence can (at times) improve your running form and efficiency.

  • Improve running form: As mentioned above, strides can improve your running form. You’ll have higher knee drive and eliminate over striding. To run at its fastest, the body will also run at its most efficient. Using strides to help improve poor posture and excessive arm swing is a great start to becoming more efficient and using the proper running biomechanics.

  • Help to “wake up” the fast twitch muscles: Strides can be done the day before your quality workout, or right before your quality session to help your legs get ready to run fast. Remember these are just short bursts, so they won’t wear you out before your speed session or race but they will help to prep your body!

  • Speed work in disguise: So much of a runner’s training is aerobic, so strides a great way to add in small amounts of extra speed work (again, by recruiting those fast twitch muscles) without needing all the extra recovery time from a full high intensity quality training session.

  • Recovery and stretching out stiffness: After an easier or long run, strides will increase blood circulation to your muscles and help to break up some lactic acid build up in your legs… both of which aid in recovery.

I somewhat hinted at this above, but when should a runner do strides?

  • Post easy run, the day before a quality session or long run

  • After the warmup jog, before the quality session

  • After the warmup jog, before a race

Now that I know when… how do I run strides?

Strides are typically 80-100 meters in length (15-25 seconds for most runners) and are ran at about 80-85% effort (about your 5k pace). They are usually performed in sets of 4-6 reps with 45-90 seconds rest between, taken as a walk or waiting in the same spot for the next to begin.

I hope this was helpful and that you’ll begin to incorporate strides into your weekly training program!

What's the deal with Easy Paced runs?

If you’re brand new to running, you might feel like you have one speed when it comes to running… run speed! Maybe you’ve been around the block a little bit and you know that your race pace is (and should be) different than your training run pace, or your multiple paces you use for training runs.

As a coach and runner, I firmly believe in the 80/20 rule (The Pareto Principle). Approximately 80% of your weekly miles should be at an easy pace while 20% of your mileage will be at a pace specific to the workout (threshold, interval, marathon, etc). If your eyes opened REAL wide and you’re now wondering how the heck you’re supposed to run fast in a race if 32 miles in your 40 mile week are slower than your race pace… then read on!

So why should you SLOW DOWN on your easy paced runs?

Easy paced running is the foundation upon which all your run training lies and it provides several benefits. It’s amazing for base building (wider the base, taller the peak!), and for a return to running post race/ break/ injury. Easy run pace is typically 65-78% of your max heart rate. Running easy allows not only the below to happen, but it also allows you to go HARD on your HARD days.

  • Build up a certain degree of resistance to injury

  • Limited stress on the body or mind

  • Develops the heart muscle

  • Increases vascularization (the opening of more tiny blood vessels that feed into the muscles you use while running)

  • Develops the characteristics (muscle fibers) of the muscles you use while running

  • Active recovery, facilitating blood flow to muscles that need repair after hard running

How much time per week should I run easy?

Above, I mentioned the 80/20 rule. This certainly isn’t a hard pressed, set in stone rule. In fact, Dr. Jack Daniels suggests that about 10% of your runs per week should be at Threshold pace, 8% should be Interval, and up to 5% be even faster (Repetition). This leaves a little wiggle room because not every week will you be hitting Threshold, Interval, Repetition or Marathon paces in your workouts. But he does say that all your other miles should be at your Easy pace… warmup, cool down, recovery jogs and during long runs too.

What is MY easy pace?

Easy pace for every person is different and it can even be different every day for the same runner depending on what the previous days’ workout, sleep, nutrition, and stress levels were. As a coach, I base the easy paces I give off Jack Daniels’ Vdot formula. It’s easy to plug in a recent race time to help judge your paces you should be running for any type of run. If you don’t have a recent race time, don’t use one from 4 years ago! You can set up a time trial race for yourself, then head to the link to find your paces.

Having the correct pace is crucial BUT you also have to go off feel. Do you live in a hilly area? Then on the uphill, you may tip over the top end of your pace as you climb if you truly keep the effort feeling easy. Heat and high dew point levels will also make you run slower automatically. That’s okay! Keep that effort easy. Remember it’s also 65-78% of your max heart rate, so you have a wide range to work with.

Okay, I know my paces and tried running that slow but I swear I feel like I’m walking…

As a runner, I FEEL YOU! But as a coach, SLOW IT DOWN ANYWAY! That’s what it should feel like. It should be so easy feeling that you could do it with your eyes closed or in your sleep. You should literally be able to sing out loud or hold a conversation easily while running this pace. Focus instead on your form and maintaining desirable running mechanics. Count your steps and try to get close to 180 steps per minute (count every time your right foot hits the ground, with a goal of 90). Check in with your breathing.

How do I race fast, if most of my miles are slower and easy paced?

Honestly, you have to get into the right mental state for your upcoming race. Look back at your previous workouts and the paces you maintained for those workouts. They were tough but you did it! Each one had a purpose. Going into a half marathon, you probably didn’t run more than about 30-45 total minutes in any one workout at a threshold pace. But neither do the professionals! The hard truth is you have to go into a race knowing it’s not going to be easy and it’s probably going to hurt and be willing to make that happen. Your fitness is there, but also know you have to race within your current fitness.

Tips for slowing it down on your easy runs:

  • Go off your heart rate, feel, or being able to hold a conversation… not your pace!
    (The general equation is 220 - age = max HR, however this is not always accurate)

  • If you listen to music, pick slower tunes or go without

  • Justify why you’re slowing down… it’s so you can crush that workout tomorrow, or because your body is working to absorb those 1k repeats you hit yesterday. Remember every workout has a purpose.

  • Run with a friend or family member who is admittedly slower

An example of my week with recent race times at 5k- 20:43, 13.1- 1:35:53
Monday- Easy run (9:06-10)
Tuesday- Easy warm up, 8x1k @ Interval pace (6:58), Easy cooldown
Wednesday- Easy run (9:06-10)
Thursday- off
Friday- Easy run (9:06-10)
Saturday- Long run, Easy but progressive to Threshold (9:06-7:20)
Sunday- Easy run (9:06-10)


I remember where I was when they announced there was a bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013. I had just finished my first half marathon two days before, on Saturday, in Kansas on the way home to my bridal shower. On Patriot’s Day, during the race, I was in my grandpa’s truck with my mom. He was driving us back to Kansas City for me to catch my flight back to Milwaukee. I had just really found my passion for distance running and I remember sitting in the back of his truck… crying. That’s when I decided I’d run a marathon. That’s when I decided I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I’m sure many others have similar stories about finding out about the bombing and how that motivated them to run, become a marathoner or shoot for a BQ.


Fast forward a few years, a few more races to fall of 2016 when I ran the Chicago Marathon a month after finishing my first Ironman. I pr’d my marathon by 36 minutes and qualified for Boston 2018 by 3 minutes and 55 seconds. I was SURE that window was large enough to get me into Boston… no doubt in my mind! Then it was announced the window was the largest ever at 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Thirty seconds was all that stood between me and NOT going to Boston… yikes! I was a squeaker!

But I made it!

Insert Team Sparkle. I’ve ran multiple Ragnar SoCal’s with the ladies of Sparkle Athletic and a few other sparkly, fast friends every year since 2015. The awesome thing is 5 of us qualified to run at Boston this year! Team Sparkle is heading to Boston instead of Ragnar SoCal to raise money and awareness for Rett Syndrome. We added two members to our usual 5, so that 7 of us will each run for 27 (because the .2!) little girls or boys suffering from Rett Syndrome. We run for a non-profit charity called Girl Power 2 Cure.

Boston gear and compression socks… gotta fly in style!

Boston gear and compression socks… gotta fly in style!

My family flew to Boston the Friday before the race. You guys… there were so many Boston jackets, BQ shirts, etc on this flight. So inspiring! I couldn’t believe I was one of them! My entire goal for Boston was just to get to the start line healthy and able to run the entire race. My son was now just over 7 months old, so I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any course records here.

My in-laws were also flying in that day. So we hung around the area a little while until they landed. Then went to the hotel to drop our things and get Parker down for a nap, and I headed back to the expo. I wanted to go right away so I’d be able to relax and miss the biggest wave of crowds.

This expo was massive, but also SUPER crowded. I’m really glad we didn’t try to bring everyone and Parker’s stroller. There’s no way it would have been manageable for us to stick together. Saturday we visited the finish line, and went to a Red Sox game. It was COLD you guys!

Still haven’t crossed that finish line… Monday!

Still haven’t crossed that finish line… Monday!

Sunday morning Team Sparkle had brunch together, then we visited the finish line again as a team. By the way, it was snowing Sunday when we were at the finish line. We ended up on the same corner as a few of the professional men. I forget who, but one of us was saying how cold it was (Elise?) and the pros looked at us and said it was perfect running weather! Then one of them stopped smiling and shook his head slowly as if to say “Just kidding! This sucks!” We had a good laugh about it!

Jumping pictures!

Jumping pictures!

From the back!

From the back!

We then went to the airport to pick up my parents, found dinner, and relaxed for the rest of the evening. The weather for Monday looked like it would be the worst weather in the history of the Boston Marathon. High of about 35 degrees, rain all day, and a headwind with gusts up to 30 mph. All day long. Luckily Team Sparkle had us covered with ponchos, medical gloves, hand/ foot warmers, and trash bags. I had also gone to a thrift store earlier in the week and purchased about $8 worth of clothes to wear. If I decided to take any off at the finish line or along the course, the clothing gets donated right back.

Our race outfit was going to be so hidden…

Our race outfit was going to be so hidden…

Race morning dawned just as nasty as they projected. Cold. Wet. Windy. I put on my throwaway socks and shoes, capris, sparkle skirt, long sleeve, arm sleeves, tank top, fleece hoodie, sweat pants, buff, gloves, hat, and medical gloves. I tied trash bags over my throwaway shoes, up around my ankles. I put on my poncho and carried my race shoes and socks and nutrition bag under the poncho with me to keep them as dry as possible. I also took a bag of dry clothes to the finish line for the bag drop… just in case it stopped raining by the time I was done and wanted dry clothes asap.

Parker had a special race outfit too! Mommy’s bib number and Boston colored socks!

Parker had a special race outfit too! Mommy’s bib number and Boston colored socks!

I was still nursing Parker pretty much full time, so I had also purchased a hand pump. I had been pumping extra the entire trip to try to have enough for Parker for up to 10 total hours of being gone. He takes the bottle like a champ! I was a bit nervous about finding a place to pump right before the race, but someone suggested the medical tent.

Team Sparkle had planned to meet up at gear check and ride the bus together, but Jolie and Kellie had other plans. Then Elise and Carrie realized that they had left something at their Air B&B, so Carlee, Allison and myself met up and rode the bus together. It’s a long bus ride from Boston to Hopkinton you guys! The bus was steaming up because a bunch of nervous, wet runners just loaded up onto a bus with the heat on full blast. I wanted to take off my layers because I was sweating, but I didn’t want to then have to put them all back on!

Carlee and me waiting to load the bus!

Carlee and me waiting to load the bus!

Carlee, me and Allison!

Carlee, me and Allison!

We finally arrived at the Athletes Village…. er, mud pit. You guys this place was disgusting! I’m sure on a dry year, it’s a great place to relax a bit, wait for your wave to be called, sit down, and meet other runners. Not this year… We did find some port-o-potties that it seemed like no one else had found and quickly used them before others were on our tail. Next stop was finding the medical tent so I could relieve myself of some breast milk before heading to the start line. This at least allowed for Carrie and Elise to catch up with us before the start.

Carlee’s face says it all…

Carlee’s face says it all…

After leaving the athlete village, you have about 3/4 of a mile walk to even get to the start line. This is when Elise and Carrie were calling us, asking where we were. We slowed our walk a little bit so they could catch up to us. Luckily, a block from the start line there’s another big lot with more port-o-potties, donation bins and pre-race aid stations if needed. We all started to strip a few layers, and I changed my shoes and socks. They were dry… for about 30 seconds. We missed the actual start of our wave, so it was kind of weird to just walk directly up to the start line and then just start running… but that’s what we did! After a team picture of course!

Can you tell who is who?!

Can you tell who is who?!

At the start line we all said we’d stick together through about 16-17 miles and then if we felt we could go faster, we would. Allison decided she was too cold from the get go and off she went, down the first hill! The other 4 of us took off a little slower, wanting to have easy miles the first few. We celebrated as we passed the first mile marker… only 25.2 to go!

I took off my fleece long sleeve and poncho hood (while running!) right after the first mile. Carrie took off her poncho and layers around mile 3… crazy lady! The first few miles were fairly silent, people focused on the task at hand, other than the swish-swish-swish of plastic and ponchos all around us.

There weren’t many pictures taken really through the rest of the race due to the rain… which was coming down hard. There were times in the race where it was pretty hard to see what was going on a block ahead of you. I really, truly think we had about 60 total seconds of it not raining from the minute I stepped out of my hotel that morning until well after I had finished the race. Now I will say I wasn’t that uncomfortable. Keeping my poncho on (and hand warmers in my gloves with medical grade gloves over the top and warmers in my sports bra) kept me pretty much completely dry and warm from my neck to mid thighs. I was afraid of overheating with the plastic on, but I had a nice cozy environment going on! I’m glad I didn’t ditch it and hoped that some runners could see my Girl Power 2 Cure bib on the back of my tank through the clear poncho.

Running was really going pretty well through the entire first half of the race. We were staying at a really consistent, easy pace of 8:30-9 minute. There were a lot of spectators, but I’m sure on a good weather year there would have been many more. My family was around mile 7. It’s so nice to see a friendly face, even if just for a few seconds! We came up to Wellesley college and you could hear the roar of the girls from about a mile away. It was SO exciting to hear them get louder and louder! I know the tradition is to kiss a girl… and we all kissed 4-5! We had to. It is tradition after all!

After passing the college, I felt like my energy was waning… like as the roar of the girls yelling diminished so did my energy. I had some pretty dark miles from 13ish-16ish. I was so thankful for the Sparkle girls pulling me along for a few miles. We started to get separated a little bit around miles 16. By 17, I was alone. Carlee had gone up ahead (speedster that she is!) and Carrie and Elise stopped to talk with someone they knew spectating.

Provided from baa.com

Provided from baa.com

I knew this is where the course would get challenging. We’d only passed one of the hills coming into Newton and had plenty more to go. I tried to focus on the REASON why I was there. I had worked hard. I had qualified. I was running for 189 little girls and boys, my cousin included, who can’t. I wanted to show my son that mommy can do hard things. I started repeating some of the girls names in my head. I knew many of them on my GP2C bib. I’d had the pleasure to meet many of them and their families at various Team Sparkle or GP2C events over the years.

I found other runners running a similar pace as me and hung on. I told myself to keep running. Before I knew it, I was through Newton, with the biggest hill to come. This was Martilee’s mile. Mile 21, the last BIG hill through Newton. I cried thinking of her struggles as I struggled to keep running, but I made it to the top and knew the hardest part of the race was over. The rest is (almost) literally downhill.

The last few miles brought more rain. I passed a lot of very miserable looking athletes those last few miles. Most of them did not have ponchos on, and if they had layers they were soaked and probably freezing. I felt bad for them, but knew I couldn’t do anything about it. I was actually ENJOYING my Boston experience, regardless of the weather.

I could see the Citgo Sign. I knew it was still a mile or so away, but I could SEE IT! I just had to get there, and the crowd would start to build by Fenway. Right when I ran over the “one mile to go” signs painted in the middle of the street, I took off my poncho. One mile to go. I couldn’t finish the race with my poncho! I felt a surge of energy and my last 3 miles were my fastest of the day! More rain, more wind, keep going.

“Within the law enforcement community, thin blue lines are a symbol of the role police officers play in a community be separating good and evil in society. Runners will have a blue-line guided path to the finish time as they make their final left turn at Hereford Street.” - BPD

“Within the law enforcement community, thin blue lines are a symbol of the role police officers play in a community be separating good and evil in society. Runners will have a blue-line guided path to the finish time as they make their final left turn at Hereford Street.” - BPD

I took my right turn onto Hereford street and almost fell due to the amount of ponchos that had been stripped off. We had an entire street, two lanes, for the run but with the ponchos we had maybe 6 feet in the middle of the road that was clear to run on. Spectators were yelling at us to be careful because so many people had fallen or slipped while running on the ponchos.

Left onto Boylston. A short stretch left to go. It was silent, besides the rain. I remember not being able to understand how there were so many people spectating and running, but it was silent. I sprinted down the middle, right on the blue stripes, separating good from evil.

Finally an announcement about my wave and to hurry to the finish to break 4 hours. I knew I had a bit more time since the girls and I started a few minutes after our official wave started. I again, started crying. This was my finish line!

FINISH! Right in the center, arms up, yellow skirt, ugly crying.

FINISH! Right in the center, arms up, yellow skirt, ugly crying.

I AM A FREAKING BOSTON MARATHON FINISHER! I always thought I’d be a one and done… but I have to go back. I have to experience Boston again. This city understands running, commitment, determination. I must go back.

I ended up finishing in a time of 3:53:57 (8:56 pace.) I met ALL of my goals:

A) Get to the start line healthy
B) Run the entire race
C) Run sub 4

My family was at the finish line, but told me after the race that they didn’t see me finish! Between the umbrellas, pouring rain, and what I found out was a moment of silence for the exact time the bombs went off 5 years ago (that put things into perspective…) I can understand why they missed me finish.

My bib, medal, and GP2C bib with the pictures of 27 beautiful little ones fighting against Rett Syndrome.

My bib, medal, and GP2C bib with the pictures of 27 beautiful little ones fighting against Rett Syndrome.

Once I stopped running, I was cold. No, freezing. I was sweaty and soaked and it was cold and windy. I found my family, retrieved my gear back and said lets go. I so wish I could have stayed at the finish line to soak up what just happened, but it was so cold. We headed to the car, and on to Providence, RI for the night before flying home the next day. But don’t worry Boston, I’ll be back.

If you’d like to learn more about Rett Syndrome, or donate towards research and treatment, please go to www.girlpower2cure.org.

To go back to the race report archives, click here.