The great runners can feel when they're on the right pace.
You don't see Ryan Hall checking his watch every ten steps to make sure that he's running exactly the speed he's trained to do. If anything, he'll check it at the mile markers, but even then it's a quick glance. He doesn't have to do the math. Runners like Hall and Meb and Abdi (our Olympic marathoners for the men) train specifically to run the same pace mile in and mile out. When they succeed, they know exactly what that feels like.
I wish I had any clue how they did this, since my feeling of speed is always completely subjective. How I feel about the day's run has often has more to do with how I ran the day before. Monday of this week, I really felt like I was flying around my five mile course, and I was really surprised to finish in a time that was more than three minutes slower than what I'd run the week before. I wasn't disappointed or anything, as I refuse to let myself train for time right now (except for Thursdays), but I was a little confused as to how I could feel so fast and still slow down.
The answer came to me the next morning: I had been slower on this Sunday than I had the week before. Relative to the previous day's run, my Monday run was very fast. Contented with this explanation, I went about my week and yesterday enjoyed my speed work. However, I was careful, as I mentioned, not to overtax myself during the workout, fearing another muscle tweak or general exhaustion.
Today, as I hit the road, I felt quick, but controlled, and when I started to get a bit winded on the backstretch, I was surprised. Certainly, I thought, this has to do with getting up so early every morning, or the added workout that is yoga. I'm just tired. I must be, because I'm not running that fast. Yesterday was fast, but today is not.
The good news is, I had a great run this morning. The bad news is, I still have no ability to actually gauge how I feel during the workout, which is something on which I'll have to focus my training once it actually gets officially underway.
Tempo runs, here I come.
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