Lessons from Pacing

I’m reflecting today about pacing.

When I was younger, in the military, I ran several times per week. Pacing was one of my strengths.

We had a physical test where we were timed, in groups, on a distance run. I was usually last at 400m, 3rd place at a mile, first at the finish. Because I ran often, I knew how fast I could go.

Now, that’s not a strength for me, because I run less.

I’m starting to train for a half-marathon in February. When I’m out on a run by myself, I’ll start out too fast and have to walk to regain my breath. My splits get slower as I go, instead of faster. I have to look at my watch to know the time ’m running, instead of feeling the pace in my legs. It’s a frustrating period.

But – since I have experience, I know what to do I have been through times like this before.

First, I need to keep going and push through this season. This problem will vanish with more familiarity. So often in the miltiary I saw athletic soldiers underperform because they were not acquainted with themselves at the edges of their ability. Self awareness takes time and work: you have to learn what you can do more each day, gradually improving. It is slow and uncomfortable. But it makes you grow.

Second, I need to choose to plan. With running, two options work well. I could have the discipline to start slower and keep going longer. This is tough to do in the moment. It requires holding myself back and knowing that the work will pay off, even though it doesn’t feel strenuous at the time. Or I could run intervals: faster, shorter, more repetitions. Both require me to be methodical and structured. They tie the daily tasks to the bigger picture. They require forethought and discipline.

Last, and most important, I need to be kind to myself in the meantiime. I’ve been out of practice before, and finding my rhythm is always frustrating and uncomfortable at the start. And that’s okay. I know if I keep showing up and doing the most important work, my progress will outstrip my expectations. The key is to stay positive and continue putting forth the effort along the way.

Of course, I need to remember this with the other activities in my life. I’ve been running longer than I’ve been husband, or a father, or a manager, or a writer. It takes time to learn the pacing, find the grove, and live up to my potential.

Stay encouraged, and have a great day.

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