I know, I know. You’re thinking, ‘Coach Joe is writing another piece on pacing.’ (You’re correct.) And that he’s going to tell us how important it is to pace ourselves during races. (Also correct.) But I promise I’m taking a different look at pacing today, so bear with me.
I’m a big proponent of runners really knowing their race pace — training enough at it so that it is ingrained in their memories and that it almost becomes a part of their subconscious on race day. I say it all the time — practice your goal pace so that you know what it feels like and then you can just go out and do it in your race.
This weekend, I demonstrated for myself why this is so important. Let me tell you the story.
I was running in my first 5,000M race on a track. I’ve run more 5K road races than I can count, but I’d never run one on the track. I had a fairly good idea of the pace that I needed to run to meet my goal — I wanted to run about 1:17-1:18 per lap. This would have brought me in about 15 seconds faster than my road PR in the 5K and I really thought I could run this.
There were a number of my friends in the race, so before-hand we talked about the pace and there was an agreement that most of the group was going for this particular pace target. That was good, because it meant that I could follow along and let the group do the pacing. That’s always nice, but this is also where “pace yourself” starts to become important.
There was a fairly large field assembled for the race — at least 30 runners I would say — and at least 10 of them were going to try to run in the 16:00 range — so it was a quality field. The race got underway and the front group stayed together right about on pace through the first 400M. But then the group broke up and I was left with a decision to make. I hadn’t really thought about looking at my own watch on the splits and I was running behind someone that I know who runs about the same speed that I do. I also know that he is a good pacer with a solid sense of pacing. I made a decision to stick on him and let him do the pacing.
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