Pacing, and Conquering the Second Mile


I’m right at the start of week 5 of training for my first half marathon, along with my friend/cheerleader Brandi. We’ve agreed to (try to) write one blog post about training, nutrition, fitness, running, etc. during the process. You can read some of my other recent posts about running here:

(I’m a little late on Week 4’s post, so I’m going to try and do 2 to get all my thoughts in!)

So, knowing this is my first training cycle for a distance race, I’ve learned so much in my first month of training. First off, my everyday posture is horrible, and I’m using a LOT of muscle to try and correct it. I’ve learned more about food and how my body reacts to is as fuel, but that’s a post for later.

And, I’ve learned that pacing is everything.

how to pace yourself in running

My first outdoor long run of half marathon training. 5.5 miles on a beautiful woodland running path. And my boyfriend’s Gryffindor stocking cap. I want the record to reflect that I’m all Hufflepuff.

I know this SOUNDS like a basic principle of running, but one of the first rules of distance running is this: pace yourself. And it’s hard. Way harder than most people think. I know seasoned ultra-marathon runners that will even tell you they struggle with pacing.

As someone to does all things with the utmost enthusiasm, this is definitely a challenge for me. When I feel good at the start of a run (which sometimes is not the case), I want to throw myself into the wind and run with unbridled excitement. Especially outside. And, spoiler alert: marathons tend to be outside.

Whether it’s because you operate in a pretty much constant state of “SO EXCITED” like me, or you just lack self-control, pacing is hard.

One nice thing about treadmill running (there are not many) is that I can experiment more with pacing and see direct results. If I drop is down .1 miles per hour, can I eek out a another tenth of a mile or 2 before a walking break? And once I got to a low enough speed, could I just cover up my treadmill screen and maintain speed until my body told me to walk for a bit?

(I know, a lot of cool kids don’t take walking breaks. I take a LOT of them. My legs are about 2/3 the length of most people’s and I have a long history of breathing problems. Running is all about pushing yourself within healthy limits.)

Prior to playing around with my pacing on a treadmill, I struggled with my second mile. My first mile would always feel good, and then I’d hit the second mile and just feel awful. I knew it was probably because I wasn’t pacing myself well, but it took a long process of forcefully slowing myself down and experimenting with speeds to figure out just how slow I should have really been going.

And let me tell you, you do not need to be sprinting to be running. And where I was previously was much closer to a sprint than a comfortable distance pace.

I found what I thought was a sweet spot. And then on my next outdoor run, without treadmills (and iPads with Netflix) I worked at translating the numbers on the speed section of my treadmill screen into reality.

I never lot a beat during my second mile. And I ran the fasted 3-miler I have run in over 2 years. (That said, it’s still slower than most people. And the other 2.5 miles I ran took significantly longer. But, I was still proud.)

I had conquered the second mile.

So, a piece of advice for aspiring runners? Early on, spend less time aiming for miles and times and more time getting to know your body. Are there things about your posture that help or hurt? If you drop your speed a few notches, can you squeeze out a few more steps without needing a break? Pacing is far from being the only mechanical question you’ll need to inspect regarding your run.

Get to know yourself. Get to know your body. Chances are, your mind is wrong and your body is trying to set you on the right course.

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