Friday, December 3, 2010

What's behind a default running pace?

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

Paces are a funny thing. I often find it difficult to gauge my speed as I run. There's a default pace that I maintain when I'm not thinking about performance. That's usually my starting point for taking it up a notch in a tempo run or slowing down to conserve energy on a longer run. I'm still not sure why my stride and cadence always seem to lock in around 9:30 per mile. Why not 9:00 or 8:30? When I run I sometimes imagine that I'm in a race with other runners. I do this because in races my pace usually drops into the 8:00 range. The theory is good but the practice is usually unsuccessful. Just imagining competition doesn't seem to help my performance. I'm sure there's much more to it than simply having others (real or imagined) by your side.

This morning I took off on a very cold morning with no regard to my speed. When my Garmin chirped at the first mile I looked at the watch to see that I'd paced it at 10:06. This was a surprise and even a shock because I'd felt like I was moving faster than that. I picked things up and by the 1.5 mile mark I was running closer to 9:40 per mile. Still not fast but definitely faster. I wasn't thinking about my speed but I was concentrating on where my feet were landing. My average cadence has increased about 3% since last year which I thought should yield faster paces overall.

I think my focus on mid-foot landing might actually be preventing progress on speed because, while my steps per minute may have increased, my stride length has probably decreased. I'm okay with that because as I build my base I'm expecting to continue increasing cadence to the point where my speed does increase. Since I can rarely tell how fast I'm actually running I should probably look more often at my watch to see how I'm performing. I've always resisted that because I don't like the pressure to maintain a specific speed. I guess I need to decide what's most important.

2 comments:

  1. i ran for about 20 years before finally getting to grips with pace, and starting to improve. I had always just gone out and ran at a comfortable pace while training, and concentrated on the number of miles i was putting in rather than than on pace in particular. What i learn was that your muscles become accustomed to running at a particular pace and unless you keep pushing yourself you will always drop back to that pace. So what you need to do is start increasing that pace for all of your trainng runs, whether you do that by running shorter faster runs and building up or by doing short fast bursts during a run like running every other lamp post at a faster pace. Eventually your body will start to regard that faster pace as its comfortable ace then you need to start pushing again, and so on until you get fast.

    I tend to find also that alternating miles is helpful, so for 1 mile i'll concentrate on mid sole stuff, the next longer stride, then back to mid sole stuff.

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  2. I'll agree with that. When I was more performance focused my runs would range between the high 8:00's and the low 9:00's. Since focusing more on distance my average pace has risen. I am trying to fold in fast segments into these easy runs as you suggest. I've also been successful in running my fastest miles at the end of my longer runs.

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