Last Sunday, I ran the River Run Half Marathon for the eighth time. Seven years ago when I ran this for the first time, I never would have guessed that I would be (unofficially) pacing the same race for my fellow Fleet Feet Cleveland runners.
Then, it was about finishing and not being too sore or too hungry afterwards. Now, it’s about hitting a target pace (and associated finish time) in a doable fashion and, when given the opportunity, being the pacer that I wish I had in some of the many races I’ve run.
There was no strategy in place for my first half marathon, and it’s taken me more than a few races to learn what works for me.
Before I could get to where I am today, I had to learn what didn’t work for me first.
What didn’t work:
- Not having a plan for training – and, therefore, not training consistently
- Not having a coach and/or support system
- Not knowing what I didn’t know and not identifying resources to help me fill in the knowledge gaps
- Being stubborn
- Pulling target finish times out of thin air
What did work:
- Having drive, determination, and enthusiasm
- Being willing to learn from others and accept their support
- Being open to new ways of training and racing
- Being adaptable
- Making educated estimates for finish times based on observable data points
Pacing is a challenge that I readily embrace because it allows me to support others and provide an observable data point for my teammates in real time. It’s also something that I can improve the more I do it, so it’s a new way of keeping myself engaged in the sport of running.
As much as I love running, it’s not for everyone. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t run – I would absolutely love it if you would give it a shot and stick with it long enough to let your body adapt to it so that you can see and feel the benefits. However, if running isn’t your thing, I get it and would encourage you to find whatever it is that strikes your fancy.
I would also encourage you to find (or build) a strong support network for your chosen activity.
Having a support system for your activity can help you achieve more than you might think you could if you were pursuing a goal on your own.
Working with a coach, joining a group, or finding an exercise partner can help you stay accountable to yourself as you move closer to achieving the goals you have set. Your support network can also help you better understand the etiquette and training protocols for your chosen activity.
From the friendships that develop through a shared experience to the network of knowledgeable resources accessible within the group, building a community of support can help you in many ways that may not be immediately obvious or easily quantifiable.
You also might have the opportunity to give back to your community in the future, which I’ve found to be more meaningful than setting a new personal record.