Learning to pace myself

2008 NYC Half Marathon
2008 NYC Half Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not much more than a month stands between me and the half marathon I signed up for back in January. I’ve been comfortably running up to eight and nine miles in the temperature controlled confines of my basement. My treadmill and I have a good relationship. I can count on one hand how many times I have run outside so far this year. All have required much effort. My neighborhood is not only an uneven surface, but extremely hilly, and my body complains each time I try to force it up the steep inclines, in spite of all the pounds I have already lost or the miles already run.

Last night the weather was perfect. The sun hung low in the sky, keeping the air a tempered breath of 73 degrees. It seemed foolish to run my scheduled three miles inside and DW was insistent that I get out of the house. He could sense my greyness. Armed with  GPS, Pandora and a set of ear phones, I took off to the steady beat of music. Unfortunately, my connection to Pandora was lost almost immediately. I fiddled with the application for a few seconds, giving up reluctantly. I did not want to waste the remaining daylight.

I ran without the guiding rhythm of music to pace my steps. It felt disconnected and rushed. My feet seemed heavier than usual, and my breathing too quick. I could feel my stride elongating, putting too much strain on my knees and shins. Without the ability to count songs, estimating my distance, I felt anxious and concerned that I wouldn’t make my goal of three miles in 39 minutes. As I came to the edge of my neighborhood, about to cross into the adjacent community, I had to stop and catch my breath. Immediately I looked at my running application, anticipating disappointment, but to my surprise, I had already completed 2.7 miles in just 27 minutes. That is just a 10-minute mile. No wonder I was so winded. I’ve never run that fast before, but the irrational fear of failing my goal propelled me forward.  My body wanted to quit and at that rate I was never going to make it home without collapsing.

Taking a deep breath, I stepped back into the road, wiping a warm bead of sweat from my brow. This time I listened more intently to the pumping of my heart and the rhythm of my breathing. The shallow sound of rough pavement echoed my body’s song, as my stride shortened to a more comfortable pace. Not only did I finish my three miles, but I completed a fourth in just 48 minutes total, an average pace of 11-minute miles.

It’s amazing how making small adjustments eases the tension so quickly and enables us to finish what we started. Sometimes my life feels like last night’s run, too fast and too furious. My inability to take things in stride makes me rush around irrationally, become frazzled and winded. Maybe, if I would just take the time to listen more, wait for my heart and my breathing to compliment each other, then perhaps I wouldn’t let the little things become so overwhelming.

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2 thoughts on “Learning to pace myself

  1. Wow is all I can say! Pacing to me is about doing less and dreaming of not wheezing as I make it down the stairs. I will be (virtually) cheering you on for your half marathon, what an achievement! 11 minute miles, sigh. On two feet, sigh. 😉

  2. I have a terrible time running without music. Like you said, it’s the counting of the songs that helps me. When I put on a certain playlist, I know how far I’ve run just by which song is on. Good luck with the rest of your training and the run. I remember my first marathon and how nervous I was the days leading up to it. Just believe in yourself and there’s no way you won’t reach whatever goal you set for yourself!

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