This is an entry into the Runner’s Lounge Take-It-And- Run Thursday.
I discovered a good side and a bad side to the middle miles since my re-birth as a runner. The first one is that I love the middle miles! How weird is that. But let me explain. See, I found that, when I was training for the marathon, it took me as many as 4 or 5 miles just to get warmed up and in the groove on a longer run. On a 15 mile run, miles 6-12 were my “comfortable” miles. These were the miles when I was warmed up, settled into my pace and in that “groove”. It felt like I wasn’t even working or breathing hard. I was just focused, concentrating and tuned in to my body.
…most of the time.
But occasionally the bad side came out. I discovered the bad side of the middle miles on a much shorter distance, actually. It was during one of our Traknight sessions. We were running the dreaded “timed mile” (insert doom and gloom music here). My first lap was 1:25. The second lap was 1:27. The THIRD lap was 1:37…? And the final lap was 1:24. I didn’t even notice until I checked my splits. A very experienced miler that was running with us (he ran a 4:08 mile that day…!) surprised me by telling me that this is actually VERY common. He said it’s not from a lack of training or conditioning, it is due to inattention. He said it is easy for you lose focus over longer distances and kind of start to “phone it in”. In other words, you cruise and let up.
As I started looking at my distance splits a bit closer after that and found that this is exactly what I was doing on my longer runs. I would warm up and start hitting my pace, but when I got to those middle miles I would ease up. Not because I couldn’t maintain the pace, but because I had lost focus. I wasn’t paying attention. I was thinking about my next gel hit, or the closest potty stop, or mowing the lawn, or what I would do if I won the lotto, etc. As soon as my brain wandered off, my times sagged.
Now, given that I have the attention span of a goldfish, I knew that this mental part of the game would need some trickery so I started trying to purposefully run negative splits through the middle third of my runs, but only by a second or two. It got me focused on my pace again and my overall times improved dramatically, but without much more effort. It was a strange fact but it was true. The hardest thing for me to do when I was training for the marathon (which still remains true to this day) was to simply maintain focus through the entire run.
Oh… I still think about winning the lotto or getting three wishes from a genie while I’m running… I just check my splits more between the daydreams.