I struggle with my running pace. It is probably one of the single biggest obstacles for me.
I haven’t really thought about pace in a long time, since it’s been many months since I’ve participated in a formal race. But it popped to the forefront of my consciousness this week, when I decided to turn my normal training run into a dress rehearsal for this weekend’s Allen Eagle Run. I was going at a steady 8:35 pace when I slowed to a walk, about a mile in, to see who was ringing my iPhone. I resumed running less than a minute later, but it still took me about half a mile to get back to the pace I had been running at previously. (At least, according to the instant readout on my Forerunner 610 – which I know isn’t perfect, but it gives me a good ballpark.)
Then I had to stop for a car while crossing the street…and when I got back to running, I was never able to break 8:50 or so. I experienced the problem that I have on just about every race day – I started out too quickly at the beginning, and my weaknesses, so to speak, caught up with me. I failed to run negative splits, which is a fancy way of saying that I ended the race at a slower pace than I started it. A negative-split strategy is considered the best way to achieve an optimum performance in a race, because you’re minimizing the risk of knocking your body chemicals out of whack, thus depleting your system. Plus, common sense dictates that if you start the race like a jackrabbit, you’re bound to finish at a pace somewhat short of that, unless you are a superhuman like Usain Bolt and can run like a jackrabbit the entire time.
My problem is that I find races very exciting. I’m in the middle of the pack, all the runners are fidgeting and bouncing and hovering their fingers over the start buttons on their Garmins, and the horn blows and everyone takes off. It’s hard for me to canter on at a moderate pace when I see these runners pulling away from me at an alarming rate. If I were thinking clearly I’d know that half of them will be walking by the time the first mile is over, but I’m in “race mode” and my mind is somewhat less than rational.
To be fair, negative splits are tough for even seasoned marathoners to achieve, and learning how to do them takes a fair amount of practice. Maybe I’ll try to do them this weekend at the Eagle Run.
Or maybe I’ll just do what I’ve always done – put one foot in front of the other and try to pull a victory out of my ass.