I have mentioned many times that this almost comes naturally to me….well, it feels like it does, but realistically, the reason it feels natural is because I have practiced it, and perfected it, and that gives me confidence that you can do this too….if you really want to. That is why I have put together the Mile 20 Mental Training to Win Your Race, it has everything that I have been able to experience and learn from through my racing time. Hopefully after working on this for a while, you will be able to run a workout or a race by feel, and without looking at you watch….at all.
A few times I would be able to get together with some running friends, or new ones even. They asked me about how I paced myself, and I saw shock on their faces when I said I could go a full race without looking at my watch once, or a 9-10 mile tempo all based on feel. Lots you have also asked recently how to pace better, I thought I would give my best advice as to how to do it, and I will share that advice next week.
Many of the wonderful women that I have met over the years have had trouble with this in their racing. I asked them to try hiding their watches, just for one race, just to try it. I know this can be hard to do, and I still struggle with it too, but they agreed to try, and you know what, each of them had a great race, and some of them ran PRs. And every one of them who did, ran a negative split!
I know this can be hard to wrap your mind around, as you need to know where you are at in order to run your best race (what if I go off too fast!?), but what most people do not realize is that your body knows the best pace to run at, it will naturally find it. However, most of us do not give our body the chance to listen to those internal cues.
By hiding their watches, the women had to listen to them, and it paid off….and that was just one day! They can now reinforce that to learn what that felt like.
Honestly, a lot of it is intuitive for me. I have learned to trust my gut instinct, and it is one of my biggest strengths as a runner that I know how to gradually progress down, which is what you want for a negative split in a race.
But that being said, I do believe it is something we can work on, so hopefully some of this will help you, especially if you are someone who tends to go out too hard and blow up.
This is the single biggest factor that is going to help you run conservative in the first half of the race. This is as close to a magic bullet as there could be, but at the same time, it is something that requires work. I am asking you to really work on this one aspect, and if you do, the other tips I will share next week, will truly be able to come to life to help you have the race you need.
Please approach this with an open mind. Just like I spent over a year working on my form from the time I went to UVA speed clinic the first time, to having a great race by winning the Army 10 mile, it took a lot of time and effort. Thankfully this does not require as much time and effort, but it will take focus for a little while, but you will be so much better off for it, and I promise you, you will run better if you really try this.
Are you ready? I am guessing you have already noticed the headline below out of the corner of your eye, but here it is anyway 🙂
Give up the Garmin (or other GPS)!
I am not telling you to literally give it up. I am not telling you to stop wearing it. What I am telling you, is to IGNORE IT until after you finish your run.
I know this is a tough to wrap your mind around, and that is why it needs a whole post to itself. This is the one that matters the most. This is the one we all struggle with the most.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were out on a run, you looked down and saw your pace, freaked out as it was WAY slower than you were “supposed to be”, so you pick up the pace, quickly, and then when you see (or hear) the next mile, you are now way too fast. Not only that, but you are now breathing much harder than you should be….so you slow down the pace, spending that entire mile wondering if you are going to be where you should be?
Or maybe you take it one step further and keep looking down at the current pace during that mile (which is very inaccurate anyway!!!). You get a little thrill from watching the number go down.
Yep. We have all been there, and that is truly letting your watch dictate your pace. Not only are you not listening to your body, but you are now essentially doing a fartlek; fast, slow, fast, slow.
We all know that fartleks are not fun, and they are not the best way to run your best. Slow and steady wins the race right?
Again, I am not saying do not wear your Garmin/GPS watch. I love mine and rarely go a run without it, but I am asking you to turn off the function where you can see the pace. That way, if you do have the urge to sneak a peak, all you can see is the distance and time….and hopefully do not feel the need to calculate your pace.
All you really need to be able to see is the distance and or the time. If you have a 6 mile easy run scheduled, thats all you need to do right? It doesn’t say (or I hope not!!!) 6 miles at 9:23 pace. If you do have a pace, it is likely a “should not be faster than”, and if that is the case, what I am going to say in the next section will help you with that part. I talked about the importance of easy running and how it will help you run faster, so stop looking at the GPS, and just run what your body is telling you it feels like, especially if you are sore or tired.
I went to see a sports psychologist when I was in college. I was really struggling with putting pressure on myself, “I have to run….”, “I need to do this right”, “I need to hit this pace”. To be honest, it was sucking the fun out of running, and it was giving me anxiety in other areas of my life as I felt so frustrated when I could not race well. The reason I was not racing well was because I was forcing it, which is exactly what we do when we obsess over our GPS watches.
My loved ones told me that I should not expect the sports psychologist to “push a button” and I would suddenly be cured. But actually, he kind of did, and it was something so simple.
He told me to go for a run.
Without a watch, somewhere I did not know, and just to run. For as long or as short as I wanted. At the time I laughed….that is seriously what you expect me to do to help? Thats just a waste of a workout….what if I only do 2 miles? However, I trusted him, and gave it a go.
I don’t remember how long I ran for that day, but I do remember feeling empowered and free. I remember having those thoughts of wondering how fast I was going, but then that being overtaken by the joy of running, for what it really was. I do remember a lot of the little details of that day. I was at an old boyfriends house, and I ran on the dirt roads near his house. There are not many individual runs I remember from college, but this one was clear.
Of course I put my Garmin back on again within a few days, but it helped me to see that the Garmin does not tell me how I feel. I do not run to impress my garmin, or to show others my garmin, I run because I enjoy it and I want to do my best.
Think about it.
When you race, yes, we set goals, and we hope to run particular paces, but realistically, all you really want to do is run the best you can for that day right?
If you set a pace you thought you were capable of, and you were ready for MUCH faster, you would not want to slow down just so you hit that time you had in your head. No, you want to run the best you can.
Your body does not know that number, all your body knows is how to run to the best you physically can, and the best your mind allows. All your mind is focused on is staying positive and trying your best. That really is all we can ask, and you do not need any numbers or times to tell us what that is.
If there is snow on the ground, or it is windy or humid, that time is going to need to be adjusted. You would not be mad at yourself (hopefully) if it was a snowstorm and you could not hit your pace. There are so many conditions that can affect the way you run, and every single day, you are on a different run. Therefore, all you can ask is that you run the best you can for that day (remember that can also include running easy!)
If you turn off those expectations of running a certain pace, your body will learn what to do. You will learn to listen to what your pace feels like; how calm your breathing is, how your legs feel, the motion of running that pace. That way, if someone says to you, go out and run 8 minute pace, you know how each of those aspects feel.
Yes, sometimes you are not going to run 8:00 pace, but if you take it as you are going to run 8:00 pace effort then you are doing the best your body can for that day. You are not limiting yourself if you feel good. If 8:00 pace feels easy that day, then you may run 7:40 and be pleasantly surprised by the end. Had you looked at your watch, maybe you would have panicked about being too fast, freaked out, and slowed down to calm yourself down.
On the other side, if you had a bad week of sleep, it is cold and windy, or you are stressed at work, maybe you run 8:20 pace, but at least you do not spend the whole time panicking that you are “off pace”. Maybe that is the best your body has for that day, and that is OKAY!
So therefore my friends, my challenge to you is to cover that watch up during your runs for the next few weeks. I am not going to lie, it is going to be hard to resist looking at first, but you will learn to trust your instincts, and let your body guide you towards what it can handle for that day.
Once you have handled this, you will start to understand how it feels at various effort levels. We know the first part of a race should feel easy. With the adrenaline rushing through our body, and the energy of the crowds, you are going to feel great.
Listening to your body really is the most critical factor when it comes to learning to run conservative and pacing yourself. I will share the rest of my tips next Wednesday, but for now, will you spend the next few days really trying this no watch thing?
I would love if you would report back to me how you feel….other than it driving you crazy as you want to look, that will pass….okay, maybe not pass, but the voice will be quieter, and you will get the rewards enough to see its worth it.
After all, we are always talking about how our sport is so simple, and that is the beauty of it. Why would we make it complicated when it doesn’t need to be?
Will you give this a try?
How to Use the Effort Scale Cheatsheet
Get your printout to refer to as you begin effort based training