Rhythm and Pacing

In almost every project I undertake, I get to the place where I “hit the wall.” You’ve probably been there, too. You’re too far in to quit, but you can’t quite see how to get through to the other side. I experienced this again last week.


If you regularly read this blog, then you know I am training to run a half-marathon in late April. So are 105 of my co-workers. I have been following a training plan I found on the Web and (of course) modified.

A week ago last Saturday, I ran seven miles. That’s the most I had ever run in my life. It felt great. I was high for two days. Then on Monday, I ran five miles. On Tuesday, I planned to run six miles and then take Wednesday off. That’s when the trouble began.

On Tuesday, I only ran three miles before I “hit the wall.” For no apparent reason, I had to stop. I wasn’t injured. I wasn’t even that winded. I was just done. I don’t know quite how to explain it, but it was very discouraging.

So, on Wednesday—the day I planned to rest—I decided to go for six miles. I felt that I kind of needed to “make-up” what I was supposed to do the previous day and prove I could really run six miles.

I mustered all the positive thinking I could. I got really focused on the number six. I told myself, “I can do this.” But … not so much.

I ran four miles and then hit the wall. Again, I was done. I was discouraged. But, more than that, confused. Everything had been going so well. What happened? I thought. Were my previous distances just flukes?

On Thursday, we had Karen Hunt conduct an on-site seminar for the aspiring half-marathoners in our company. She is an exercise physiologist at Vanderbilt’s Dayani Center for Health and Wellness.

During the Q & A session at the end of the seminar, I described my experience and asked for her advice. She said, “Your experience is not that unusual. It’s called over-training. You just need to listen to your body and give yourself permission to walk or take a day off.”

Based on this advice, I took Thursday off, did my usual weight training on Friday, and then did my long run on Saturday. I was scheduled to run eight miles. I hit the wall at four miles and then walked for a quarter mile and ran for three-quarters of a mile. I followed this pattern for the last four miles, but I achieved my eight-mile goal. Sure, I wished I could have run the whole way. But at least I finished, and I felt good about that.

I again rested on Sunday and then ran six miles today without stopping. I felt great—I mean really great. It’s just amazing how every day as a runner is unique. It’s like I bring a different body with me each day.

So, I now plan to hold my daily goals with a more “open hand.” I want to pay better attention to the feedback my body is giving me. I want to enjoy the run more, rather than just powering through it.

This experience reminded me once again about the importance of rhythm and pacing—in running and in life. Yes, there are times when you can surge through life with total focus and intensity. But you have to also make time for recovery. You have to listen to the feedback and respond accordingly. Sometimes you have to slow down or take time to rest, so that you can complete the race and accomplish your ultimate goal.

Contrary to what I have often told myself, this isn’t wimping out. It’s just plain old wisdom.

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