You know you’re a runner when you watch the countdown on a microwave, see 3:45, and immediately think “marathon time”. And you know you’ve raised your 12 year old well when he looks at your playlist and exclaims “Mom, you have enough music to run 3 marathons!” I’m not planning on running with music when I marathon but I’m pretty impressed that (1) his math was that quick and (2) he knows my marathon goal.
Like most runners, I often wonder about time. How fast can I run a 5K? If I run 5 seconds faster per mile/kilometre, how will that change my marathon time? You want me to run how many repeats? How much rest do I get? Am I on pace? Pacing is the one that is always on top of my mind.
For years, my running friends have called me a human metronome. During a 10K or half-marathon, I can quickly lock into a 7:30 mile pace. At the end of a run with friends, when the goal is to log miles and chat, we like to guess what our average pace was, and we are usually right within a few seconds. Even on the track, which I am absolutely no expert at, I can usually guess what my 400 metre repeats are within one or two seconds.
My friend, Monica, and I use to joke about my pacing during a long run: 7:57, 7:58, 8:01, 7:56….my miles were all where they needed to be, surrounding the 8 minute mark – until this year. Somehow, I have lost all sense of my marathon pace. Perhaps it has been due to the faster running that I have been doing in general, but that 8 minute mile has become elusive. For the past few weeks, my long runs have been faster than I want them, which might sound great, but I know I need 8 minute miles so that I don’t blow up at Mile 22 in Chicago. I also know that I need 8 minute miles when I am running continuously and don’t have a break whenever I hit a traffic light.
This weekend’s heatwave in southern and central Ontario that has given us higher temperatures and humidex levels than I can ever remember. Yesterday, the thermometer reached 40 degrees (which is 100F); in this part of Ontario, that use to be unheard of. While many are complaining about the heat, it is exactly what I need right now so that I can get back to the 8 minute mile.
Yesterday, I headed out for my long run at 6:30 with three goals: 10 miles, a half-marathon or anything longer than 15 miles. With weeks of 18 mile runs behind me, I felt that I could run that distance again – if Mother Nature cooperated and if I paced it properly. No matter how far I ran, I knew that I had to be slower if I wanted to reach any of the goals. Well, there is nothing like a heatwave to force the pace down as all of my mile splits were predicitable and well-timed: slow to start, faster miles on the downhills, slower on the ups and into what wind we had. At Mile 10, I was feeling good; at Mile 13, I was feeling strong; but during Mile 14, on a favorite but challenging uphill, with the sun high, I noticed my heartrate starting to climb and I thought “This is crazy. I have kids to worry about.” So I called it a day at 14.1 miles.
When I got home, I was mad at myself as I probably could have run at least one extra mile before “common sense” took over. Then, I started to think about the pluses: I got out and ran, and I ran more than 13 miles; my pacing was good as I averaged a 7:57 mile; I didn’t feel drained at the end of my run and had the whole day ahead of me. As I saw other runners post their 30K runs, I had to keep reminding myself of my positives.
The temperatures this weekend and in the days ahead are extreme but, in terms of pacing, they are exactly what I need. In the same way that running through the cold and icy winter made me stronger, this hot weather is forcing me to really focus on pacing and find my inner clock again.