Saturday, February 26, 2011

Marching (or Running) To Your Own Beat

As I plodded along Eastern Avenue today, with no one in sight in front of me, I turned my head to see if anyone was in back of me either.  Nope.  There I was, all alone, fighting through the last four miles of a very difficult 15-mile run.

But don't feel sorry for me.  On the contrary, I embrace the solitude.  My point is, running with a group shouldn't always be about running with a group. 

There are certainly a lot of benefits to group running.  A pace group can help you set an appropriate tempo for you run so that you don't go out too fast or too slow.  A pace group can challenge you to keep up with the pack, and the group members can encourage you when you're struggling. In the Bob Roncker's training groups, there's usually a coach for each pace group, and that person (or someone else in the pace group) has a route map and/or knows where to turn so that no one gets lost, sort of like a shephard over the flock.  When you run with the same group, week after week, it becomes comfortable... perhaps too comfortable?

I am currently in between two pace groups.  I run faster than the slowest group, and not quite as fast as the second-slowest group.  If I struggled to keep up with the faster group, I'd risk injury or (even worse in my opinion) burning out early on in the run and having to walk.  And as much as it would be more comfortable, staying with the slowest pace group is not going to improve my performance.  In a 6- or 8-mile run, being in between pace groups isn't all that noticeable, but once you get into higher mileage, the gap widens and you end up not being able to see anyone in front of you or behind you, like I did today. 

And that's when it's all up to you.  This morning, I dug deep within myself as the pain crept up my knees and into my quads at mile 13.  As I approached the last big hill, I powered up it with the same energy that I had in hill #1 twelve miles ago.  I honestly thought to myself, "Who's legs are these?"  They couldn't be mine, because mine are way too tired to make it up the hill.  And then I realized that it was me--all me--that was running up the last hill with everything I had.

Sometimes a pace group can be beneficial to your running, but I would caution runners to make sure that their pace group isn't actually holding them back. Today, my pace group was made up three people:  My Heart. My Mind. My Body.  And sometimes, that's all you need.

1 comment:

destination262 said...

That was a powerful post! Way to power through that run. And so glad you kept through it until the end. :)