After enjoying yesterday’s rest from running and my daughter’s first of several soccer games in her tournament this weekend, I was ready to hit the road early this morning. It wasn’t that I was all that self-motivated, but instead had the commitment of meeting my training partner, Len, for the run. Len is a co-worker from another component at my office, and a fun running partner. I always enjoy it when we can fit in training runs together. We’re looking forward to running the Prairie Fire Marathon in October.
Today’s run reminded me of a thought I had back on our cruise in late June. I was amazed by the effect of others on my mental approach. Running on a treadmill on the ship, I was perfectly content running at my own pace with hardly anyone around me. As the treadmills around me started to fill up with other runners, I noticed a couple of changes in my thought process. First, my original pace which was very comfortable started to become very labored. Second, I felt as if I had to increase my pace. The only thing that really changed was the amount of people around me, but that difference made a significant impact on my thought process.
I really didn’t think about that run again until this morning. Today’s run was supposed to be a carbon copy of last Saturday’s run, nine miles at marathon race pace. The route was almost the same, a loop around my neighborhood and then some miles at the James A. Reed nature reserve. All I had to do was the same as last week, right? Well, yes and no.
Last week I ran by myself and had very specific goals for the first six miles and the last three miles. I concentrated on each mile, one at a time. By adding a running partner this week, that concentration completely changed. Much like the ship treadmill, my internal focus suddenly turned to an external hypersensitivity. I focused much more on matching Len’s pace and less focused on myself. Unlike the treadmill experience, this influence turned out to be positive in challenging myself throughout the entire run. I’m not sure I would have ran the same time today if I ran by myself.
This is an important factor for those considering an upcoming race. There is nothing wrong with training by yourself or training on a treadmill, but you must realize the race will add many different variables beyond your training if you simply focus on one method. Running by yourself probably won’t prepare you for the effect of running next to someone who sounds like they are hyperventilating or are really pushing it to the max. Treadmills will not prepare you for sudden inclines or declines or wind or rain. To be best prepared, you should challenge yourself with such variables during your training. By doing so, you will give yourself the confidence needed to overcome whatever challenge the race may present.
So, today was my challenge. My challenge to run against those faster than me. My challenge to consider the external factors of a run beyond just what my watch or body is telling me. It is such challenges that make us better. Even though I was extremely pleased with last Saturday’s effort, today’s run was almost 30 seconds faster. Faster thanks to the challenges presented by my training partner. As mentioned in an earlier blog during the Olympics, the best examples of the benefits of challenging yourself through training partners were Farah and Rupp as well as Flanagan and Goucher. Len and I won’t be posting any times near Olympic times, but we can push each other to improve our own times.
As a side note, today’s run was 9.0 miles in 1:02:47 or 6:58/mile pace. We ran six of the nine miles below 7:00/mile pace.