The Art Of Pacing

There’s an art to pacing. By that I mean that there is no cookie cutter formula that will work for me each and every day at each and every distance.

Indeed the very moment that I even begin to think that I have mastered this much needed yet maddeningly elusive component of running, I am summarily shown otherwise.

Six of us took to the bumpy track at Queen’s Park this morning. The skies still a stubborn shade of black. Yesterday’s rains have left their slick impressions on the terre battue as well.

Speed work is always tough. It’s supposed to be. It’s how we improve as runners, as athletes. But the dark and uneven footing is an extra stumbling block — pun intended.

I steady my breathing and set my mind on the task at hand. My footsteps are short and quick which give me an advantage over the uneven terrain. I settle into 2nd behind one of our much vaunted leaders — Svetlana, a woman strong enough to qualify me for Boston on her worst day. From this vantage I try to keep pace while being mindful of my own pacing.

In track workouts there is always the intriguing albeit precarious mix of pacing versus racing. No one wants to be left behind. But to charge forward too quickly can spell a most hasty and painful demise.

Today’s workout is progressive. Each round to be completed at a more aggressive standard than the last. 1600 metres, 1200 metres, 800 metres, 400 metres, culminating in an all-out 200 metre sprint.

As we round the final turn on the opening 1600, I take over the lead. I speed up the hill and over the finish line holding onto first and even padding my lead. The 1200 goes similarly with me making my move with 400 metres remaining. Svetlana holds me off on the 800 and I reclaim top honours on the 400.

Yet when the gun goes off for the 200 I have nothing left. Although it is well under a minute of running, in my depleted state I coast over the line in 5th.

Svetlana and the others are the gleeful possessors of something I don’t have in this final sprint… energy. They have successfully paced themselves for this last foray. Much like on race day I have faded while the BQ’ers show once again why they have qualified for our sport’s most prestigious race multiple times over.

They have mastered the fine art of pacing. While I, on the other hand, am still learning. Despite improving vastly, it is clear I have plenty of work to do.

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2 comments

  1. We had a track workout last night as well (3x 800, 6x 100 to work on improving leg speed). I did well on the 800s and the first several 100s but on the last one, several other runners dropped me like I was walking. I think they were holding back because I’m sure my pacing was flawless 😉 Unfortunately, my watch battery died so the world may never know. Pacing is always a challenge.

    1. I am fully prepared to side with you Woody. Clearly the others in your group were sandbagging ☺️

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