I didn’t really familiarize myself with running vocabulary until the last couple of years, and I’m finding its both a blessing and a curse. I was so excited to finish the first few races that I didn’t care much about time or pay much attention to things like pace. Part of the problem become once I realized how fast I COULD go, I began to expect it to be consistent or better each time. This kind of expectation is generally unrealistic and I can really only blame my perfectionism for that.

For those who are unfamiliar, to run with a negative split (race, training or just a fun run) means you’re running the second half of the run slightly faster than the first half. Theoretically, if you start out a bit slower you’ll save some energy for the end to finish strong instead of trudging through the last bit ready to collapse, puke, or both.

I’m traditionally of the “ready to puke” variety. In races particularly, I’m running on adrenaline so I start waaaay too fast and start to die down. For example, my first post baby 5k miles were as follows:

Mile 1 – 7:57

Mile 2 – 8:33

Mile 3 – 8:34

I finished in a totally respectable 26:02, but by the end, I was put a fork in me because I. AM. DONE.

Last weeks’ long run I ran with Lynnsey without much expectation as to time or speed. I haven’t done the exact math but to my estimation it appears that while we didn’t manage a negative split, it was at least pretty close to even.

I can only recall a handful of races where I finished without feeling like I was going to throw up at the end. The one that sticks out in my mind was actually the most recent half marathon at Myrtle Beach. I had an ultimate goal to finish as close to 1:45 as possible but didn’t really expect it to happen. I ran the race by “feel”. In other words, I based my speed on what my body told me. I still finished feeling like I wanted to puke, but it was because I pushed myself even harder at the end once I realized the goal was really within reach. I have no idea if I finished that race with a negative split – I didn’t have a fancy watch at the time, but I WAS able to achieve the goal, did best when I simply paid attention to my body and wasn’t impatient.

I rocked it
I rocked it

I’ve had a couple good mid week “training runs” where I went out without expectation. I started out slowly, and found the energy at the end to not only finish strong, but REALLY strong. In fact just this week I finished the entire last mile of a 6 mile run in 7:20. On the other hand, because I’m still learning whether or not my body will return to its previous speed, when I have a “bad” day, I’m not disappointed.

Today I set out on my long run with a goal: 9 miles at “race pace” or  better.

Today, I had an expectation.

Like usual, I started out too quickly. I didn’t end up doing horribly by any stretch, but when I pushed myself at the end I discovered I hadn’t really run any faster the average for the run. In fact, I was 30 seconds slower than mile 1. There is something about having a goal or expectation that wears my patience thin. It is difficult for me to start out slowly – to slow down at all really. I’m finding this is true in life as well as running – I am impatient, and sometimes because of that, I feel worn out at the end. It’s hard for me to listen to my body’s cues when I have another plan in mind. It’s hard for me to accept a different plan, period. I think if I can go into runs with more “options” (my goal is this, but in the event that I feel tired today, my goal is this instead) I’d be likely to finish more runs like my 6 miler earlier this week. I need to take advantage of the fact that I’m still technically getting back into the swing of things and teach myself a new way to run.

I need to take advantage of the still newness of this parenting gig, go into each day with more “options” and teach myself a new way to handle changes in plans. I  need to teach myself that it isn’t always necessary to start off at full speed, or hit full speed at all. Sometimes, it really pays to slow down.

In running as in life, I am still learning.