Runner’s World Oct 2003
By Jeff Galloway
The clock shouldn’t dictate pace. The conditions should. Here’s
how to overcome the most common pacing pitfalls.
There are lots of things that can ruin a perfectly good run: worn
out shoes, shorts that chafe, a huge bowl of five-alarm chili. But
paying attention to your watch, instead of the running conditions,
is the most common workout-wrecker. Sure, it’s always a good
idea to know the approximate pace you want to run so that you can
push (or not push) your body accordingly. But unless you happen
to run in the Biosphere, where every environmental detail can be
carefully controlled, you need to remain flexible with your pace
goals. That way you can easily accommodate any number of pitfalls
you may encounter.
Pacing pitfalls include such things as a 30-mile-an-hour headwind
that crops up in the middle of your speedwork session, or an unexpected
spike in temperature between the start and finish of your long run.
Stubbornly sticking to your original pace goals only sets you up
for failure-and a really bad run.
Here are the top five pacing pitfalls. You can’t avoid them
completely. But if you’re prepared for them, they won’t
trip you up.
THE START. I know, you rarely have a problem feeling
good at the beginning of a run or race. It’s always sometime
later when the grim reaper makes an appearance. But if you start
a run as little as 10 seconds per mile too fast, you’ll struggle
at the end.
To avoid the crash-and-burn scenario, keep the first 5 to 10 minutes
of your training runs 1 to 2 minutes per mile slower than you intend
to finish. For a race, run the first few minutes at a pace that
feels significantly slower than race pace. This should get you to
the first mile marker about 20 seconds over race pace. Then feel
free to pick things up.
HILLS AND HEADWINDS. Environmental factors such
as hills and headwinds dramatically increase your workload, so you
need to account for them by adjusting your pace. In other words:
You should slow down.
Whether you’re working your way up a hill or into a strong
headwind, your technique should be the same: Shorten your stride
and keep your feet low to the ground, shuffle-style. Don’t
worry about your pace per mile. Instead, concentrate on maintaining
an even effort.
Downhill miles can be run faster than uphill and flat miles-about
10-15 seconds per mile. Remain focused on maintaining a steady level
of effort. Proper downhill running form includes keeping your feet
low to the ground, and touching the surface lightly and quickly
with each step. If you hear your feet “slapping” your
stride is too long.
CURVY COURSES. Curves, just like hills and headwinds,
will naturally demand a slightly slower pace. When you try to run
a curve too fast, you expend more effort as you fight against it.
Instead, relax into the turn and let your body find the natural
tangent (the shortest and easiest route to navigate). The more relaxed
you are going into a curve, the less you’ll need to slow your
FAST FRIENDS. Running with others is a great way
to stick to a training schedule, as long as you’re running
your own pace. Running too fast or too slow just to stay with a
group will lead to injury, burnout, or sub-par running. The key
is to run with friends who are slower than you on your recovery
days, and run with faster friends once a week as a speed workout.
HEAT AND HUMIDITY. Some runners love to gut out
workouts under the blazing sun. But in the heat and humidity, your
body has a hard time cooling itself, so a moderate pace is a smarter
approach. Once the temperature is above 75 degrees and the humidity
exceeds 80 percent, slow your pace by 30 to 60 seconds per mile.
And when it’s above 85 degrees and 90-percent humidity, forget
about pace, and just try to stay cool.
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