Friday, January 13, 2012

Lessons I Learned from Yesterday's Tempo Run

Yesterday I ran my first official training run since I officially wrote out my Half Marathon training plan on Wednesday night. Instead of re-hashing every detail for you, I'm going to share six lessons that I learned from the run.

Maintaining a steady pace makes all the difference.
Normally when I do speedwork that requires me to alter my pace multiple times during a run, I lack consistency in maintaining speed. I typically start mile 3, the fastest mile, of my tempo runs with an all-out sprint. Then I realize that I can't maintain that speed for a mile and I slow down. My average pace slowly rises and sometimes, if I'm doing it really wrong, I'll need to speed up at the end to guarantee that I finish the mile in under 8 minutes. I'm pretty sure that defeats the point of the run. Last night, I paid close attention to my watch during mile 3 and I paid even closer attention to the way my legs felt and the speed at which they were moving. I made a point to run as consistently as possible and I'm proud to report that I maintained a 7:40-7:50 pace for the entire third mile. It made the mile easier but I also think that it was better for me as a runner.

The warm-up mile is all mental.
I cannot let myself run a true warm-up mile at the beginning of a tempo run because I have this fear that starting out slow will make me slower throughout. If I run the first mile in about 9 minutes, then it will be much easier to run the second mile in 8:30 because I won't have to increase my speed by too much. However, if I run the first mile in 10 minutes, I will have to increase my speed a lot more to achieve 8:30 in the next. But I realize that I am exerting more to run that first mile in 9 than I would in 10 so it may be hurting my performance overall.

I care what other people think.
Ok so this is really dumb. But it's true. When I've just had an awesome run and I'm completing my last mile at a cool-down pace, up a hill, I hate to let people pass me. I want them to know that I'm not actually this slow. Running should be a personal thing, and it normally is, but that competitive spirit of mine just can't stand to be passed by people that I know I'm faster than, especially after I've spent a few miles running so fast.

My non-runner boyfriend actually gets what a tempo run is.
When I get home before Josh and am heading back out for a run, I text Josh to give him a heads up. Yesterday I sent "running 5 tempo". When I got home and he said, "how was it", I showed him my watch with my distance, time and average pace like I always do, he said "that means nothing to me". Normally, he knows whether to be impressed or to comfort me for my slowness or frustration so I thought he'd see the 8:38 average pace and think I did well. But, apparently, he is in-tune enough to know that overall pace doesn't matter for a tempo run. He wanted to know the details of each mile and, when I told him, he was proud.

Sometimes staring at a screen will make you more tired than running will.
All day I was exhausted and felt like falling asleep on my desk. I couldn't figure out how I was going to achieve a sub-8 mile after work. But as soon as I hit the pavement, I felt great and didn't feel sleepy once. Running is definitely better for the body, and the soul, than staring at a computer screen for eight hours.

Slow running streaks can be overcome.
I have been a little down about my running ability recently. I felt slow on NYE, I had terrible cramps last weekend, and I ran too slowly twice this week. My confidence wasn't the greatest going into yesterday's run. But then I rocked it. Nine miles on Saturday still makes me a little nervous but I feel a lot better about it than I did before yesterday, when I proved to myself that I can still be fast.

I'm curious: Do you care what other people think of your pace? Do you struggle with anything during a tempo run? Have any fun weekend plans??


  1. Great job! We all have good runs and crappy runs. I struggle with fast running (tempo/speed). Endurance is definitely my strength. I can run long & slow really well but not long & fast. And usually not short & fast. ;) I try hard though! Good luck with your 9 tomorrow!

    1. Thanks Jenny! I need to remember that because I am too quick to let myself get down about a bad or slow run. Ditto on running long and slow- that is something I'm really trying to work on!

  2. woohoo congrats on a well executed tempo run!!!!!!!

    When I run, I do it for myself-- I'm not too worried about having a "bad" pace because of what other people think, but rather I don't want to disappoint myself. But I am hard on myself, I think it is harder for me to please myself than it is for me to please other people.

  3. awesome tempo!

    i know exactly what you mean about a few things... first, finding a fast speed that you're comfortable with - i always start out too fast and then realize i won't be able to hold it for the remainder of the speed session or repeat or whatever. it's a learning process! second, i care about what other people think too. i ran on the treadmill for 2 slooooow milles, like 11:00 pace and hated that others around me were running so much faster. i need to get over that/over myself. :)

    xo christine @