Let’s talk about pacing. Now that you’re in week 3, and hopefully gaining some momentum, it’s time to address this key element of good running.
You may be thinking “Now? Isn’t it a bit premature to talk about pacing?”, given that pacing strategy would normally refer to how you measure your effort during a race. The idea is that you have a “budget” (physiologically speaking), and you have to “spend” it over the course of your Two Oceans in order to reach the finish line in the best possible shape (and time!). If you have to slow down dramatically at the end, or if you finish feeling like you’ve barely expended any energy, then you’ve paced yourself sub-optimally.
The reality is that pacing is an acquired skill. It needs to be practiced. And in fact, I’d go so far as to say that when you are training, you are obviously ‘challenging’ your body, your heart, your lungs, your muscles, your tendons, but you are also teaching your mind. And what your mind must learn is how it feels to run at different speeds, what it feels like to go too hard or too easy. By learning those lessons, you’ll master what it feels like to run at just the right speed!
The key to pacing yourself is awareness. I don’t mean that you need to measure every single detail on all your runs. It would be exhausting and would suffocate your enjoyment to measure your pace every kilometer of every run. However, there are some sessions where being mindful of your pace and your effort levels will really pay off come April.
Let’s look at the three types of run sessions you’re doing, and I’ll try to give you some tips that will make you better at pacing yourself.
First, those short and easy runs you do mid-week are intended for recovery. There should never be a risk of fatigue in those runs. You should finish them feeling like you could do them again!
Second, at least once a week, you’re doing sessions where I’m asking you to run slightly harder segments for shorter periods. Maybe a 7 or 8 out of 10 for effort, for about 10 minutes. Those sessions are designed to challenge the body and mind, and it’s here that I want you to be really aware of all the sensations you feel – your breathing, the way you land, what you’re thinking, muscle fatigue or pain, and so on. These harder efforts are sustainable for shorter times only, so what you’re really doing in these sessions, mentally, is learning what your ‘limit’ or ceiling is. Listen to those signals, memorize them, so that you can refer to them in races or any runs in the future.
Finally, long runs. These are obviously challenging, and you’ll experience some fatigue towards the end. But it’s important that you don’t finish them “at a crawl”. Aim to finish strong, but tired. On a scale of 1 to 10, you should get to halfway in about a 5 or 6, and finish them at perhaps a 7. Tired enough that you know you’ve worked and earned some fitness points, but not so tired that you’re walking and desperate to finish!
The secret, as mentioned, is awareness. Just switch on, from time to time, and ask “How am I feeling?”. “Is this normal?”. Be mindful, and you’ll learn about yourself, and become a better runner! – Ross Tucker