If there’s one thing I’ve learned about running, it is the importance of a pacing plan. I have found in my last two years of running that I can unexpectedly fall apart somewhere past the middle of a race. Well, maybe the term “fall apart” is a little dramatic, but I have had several races where my per mile pace went up along with the mileage. After my first marathon, I discovered the longer a race, the more my time slowed. I thought, I could walk faster than this. Goal times vanish, and I will beat myself up about it after. But then after I’ve had time to stew, I always try to figure out what went wrong.
Sometimes it was the result of going out too fast for the distance, then running out of gas. Other times, I’ve thought myself invincible to the weather elements. Mostly the heat. But I’ve also had wind, rain, and humidity bring me down. When I learned how to fuel better a few days before the race, I had better performance. But I still needed to figure out how to keep from slowing so much in the half and full marathon distances.
When I first started running, my pace was pretty even. I was able to run pretty much the same per mile pace all the way through. That’s easier to do I guess, when you’re running three miles. But even with my first half marathon – when I really had no idea what to expect – my mile times were consistent. After that, I started running with a GPS and checking my pace. I started to notice my pace slipping on long runs. Was I relying too much on the GPS, or was it a natural result?
I decided it was time to fix the problem, and then I started seeing more information about running negative splits. Or how to train with long runs to combine speed. I love how things work out that way. I began to focus a few long runs on speeding up in the last fourth of the run. For example, if I planned to run 12 miles, I would run the first 8 at a slower pace, then move the last 4 to be on my goal pace.
What did I find by putting this into practice? The first time, my legs were sore and tired. I was dragging. But it felt good knowing my legs could run the goal pace even though they were tired. Now, after several months of doing this in training and races, I’ve found that my pace on a long run naturally goes down as the mileage goes up. I guess my legs are accustomed to it now.
It’s a good feeling.
How do you manage pacing?