I was in the gym talking with a fellow runner the other day and he said something curious to me. We were talking about whether to do an upcoming 5K race and he said, “I’m worried about banging myself up with another race.” This was interesting to me, because he is probably running upwards of 60 miles a week and we were talking about a 3 mile race. So I decided to poke on this a little bit more. Over the course of the conversation, what came out was this idea: he didn’t want to be dragged into an effort harder than he would put in on the track by other competitors.
Here are my thoughts on this topic:
— First, you own your own workout. Whatever the intensity, the pace, the distance you plan to run — these are within your control. It is important to keep this in mind when it comes to racing or even running with other people. If you were to decide to take the pace easy, then that’s up to you. If you want to push the first mile hard and then back off you can do that as well. If you find the opposite — that the pace isn’t hard enough — then it is up to you to change the pace. These factors are all under your control, so don’t succumb to peer pressure from other runners to do something else with your workout.
— Second, racing and speed workouts should be one and the same. If this runner was willing to hop on the track and run 12x400M (3 miles) then why does running a 5K (3.1 miles) cause him pause? This is likely both a perception and pacing issue. The perception portion of this is that a race is somehow going to be pushed harder than a regular track workout. Well, here’s the thing, that would be a good thing. If the racing environment got more intensity out the workout, then it probably is going to yield more benefit to the runner’s fitness. And from a pacing perspective, the runner just needs to understand the difference in pacing 12x400M and 1×5,000M — which is a subtle difference at best.
— Third, racing is good for you. Putting aside issues of pacing for a moment, putting yourself into races is good for you. It teaches racing skills, such as the ability to read other runners, pace in groups, read your own body and go through a warm-up routine. All of these things that we’re talking about here — the ownership of your workout and pacing — are practiced in races. So the more racing you do, the better honed your skills become and this opens up more opportunities to run races like this to benefit your fitness.
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