My Pacing Problem



Pacing is a very important issue for runners, runners who are concerned with optimal performance that is. The average runner will have a goal of what he/she would like his/her next 5k, 10k, half-marathon or full marathon time to be and if he or she is really serious about it then that runner will have a plan or pacing strategy to make it happen. It is a common belief among coaches and athletes alike that practicing proper pacing will bring about running success and ensure you achieve your highest potential. Said professionals believe that pacing is not necessarily a natural ability but a skill that can be refined and sharpened through practice and training in your tempo runs and interval sessions.

We’ve often heard the cliché expression – pace yourself – and while it maybe an overused euphemism it applies just as much to running as to other areas of life and maybe even more importantly so. “Running the correct pace can be the difference between running a personal record or not,” says Coach Richard Airey. In other words, you start off too fast and you run the risk of burnout or you get caught up in the race excitement and allow the race to dictate your pace, the result being you end up running much faster in the beginning leading to a forced and much slower finish.

The newbie or inexperienced runner is susceptible to this as so often we are driven by competition. It takes only the thought that someone will out-perform you to get your juices flowing and you’re off but it is the disciplined and experienced runner who understands that in most cases or races placing and medals happen at the finish line, which could be twenty-five miles down the road.

Enter me, certainly not a newbie but not quite so sure I fit in the category of experienced, or maybe it’s just that I’m not very disciplined, whatever it is and for sure it’s something, I continue to be challenged by this pacing concept. Oftentimes, if I race with a pacer, and this certainly is an option where available, I tend to do pretty well. On the other hand, left to my own devices, I usually end up struggling with an even pace for any race greater than a half-marathon. Too, I have tried running negative splits (second half of the race faster than the first) and have only been marginally successful with that. There is empirical evidence to support this as the most efficient and effective way to attain your goal with studies showing that record holders from 1500 meters to marathons have been negative-split runners, see here: I have been told this can be remedied with coaching and practice. Since I have been practicing, I can only deduce that discipline is lacking and thus I feel I can benefit from a one-on-one approach. If skill is indeed what this pacing thing is about, I feel more than equipped, only I need those skills honed and developed.

With Boston in mind, I have been focusing on speedwork: tempo runs, hill repeats and interval sessions. Maybe I can benefit from some track work; though with all the cold airof late, my breathing has been taking a beating. I can only hope this leads to something good. Off to find a coach, wish me luck!



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