as a runner, one thing i really struggle with is pacing. a lot of people will look at my training times and be really impressed with my ballpark 8:00-mile splits. but more seasoned runners know i’m setting myself up for disaster. ALL of my runs pace out to about 8:00 miles. my short, easy runs on mondays; my shake-out runs on thursdays; my long runs on saturdays. all. the same. pace.
this never really used to bother me. when i first started running and training, i figured it was a good thing, right?! i couldn’t allow myself to run SLOWER than i had the day before! every run, for me, had to be fast. faster than the day before, faster than the last time i had run that distance, fast and ferocious to the point where i would be so wiped out afterwards i sometimes wouldn’t feel well.
last spring one of my friends, who was following my training, said to me :“this may be an unpopular opinion, but generally, i think you run much too quickly.” and at that point – fourteen weeks into my second half marathon training cycle – i had to back up and admit he was right. the thing is, he runs significantly slower than i do on most of his training runs (exception being speedwork, where we’re about comparable). however – he has to date beaten me in all three half marathons we have run together. not by much, but he’s gotten me every time.
he, my friends, knows how to train.
yesterday i had my long run – Week 2 of training and last week of single-digit longs! – and it was cold and we had had some ice and snow the day before. all i told myself before getting outside was: “don’t try and be fast; just be safe.”
and i had the greatest long run i’ve had in ages. i kept the pace easy – my training goal pace was 9:03 and i still undercut it, but not by as much as i usually do – and never once felt like i was fighting really hard. which, a few years ago, would have been a sign in my mind that i wasn’t working hard enough. but for me, yesterday, it meant i could let my mind wander and just enjoy myself, enjoy the way i move.
i ran the same distance as i did last weekend, albeit a different route. last weekend it was windy as hell and my route was hillier. and i finished a minute faster than i did yesterday.
and you know what? it doesn’t matter. i felt amazing yesterday. i finished strong (negative splits!) and felt great. why would i want anything different than that?
my tendonitis was a non-issue, it actually was a nice day out – very sunny and no wind, even though it was damn cold – and i felt very…free.
i like to push myself – that’s what intrigues me about fitness. that’s what keeps me going back to the power rack, back to the bumper plates, torn up hands and all. that’s what keeps me lacing up, too. but running pushes me in other ways, as well. it pushes me to be smart about my body, to be aware of it. to listen to it, to fuel it, to respect it.
not every run has to be your fastest run ever. not every run needs to knock you on your ass and make you feel like you’re going to toss your cookies. save that for race day (and speedwork, let’s be honest).
some days, yes, you push harder. but lots of days, it’s okay to settle back, loosen the reins, and run with the ease and lightness that makes the sport so damn great.