I have heard it said from many sources for the last 3 years, “Run the mile you are in.” When I first started hearing that, it did not mean anything to me. My first thought was, “I have no choice! I can’t run a mile that I am not in!”
I first began to understand this mantra better when I my Garmin 205 GPS watch broke. When I started back into running in 2009, I was wearing a simple $15 stopwatch. As I got more serious about competing, however, I wanted to watch my pace more carefully. At that point, I bumped up to a Nike Plus wristband with a footpod sensor. This was not as accurate as I need, so I bought the Garmin 205. It could display 3 screens which could display 4 pieces of information each. The numbers that I would watch closely during training and/or a race included current pace, pace of the current mile, and the average pace for the run. Data is good, but I gradually became more and more obsessive about maintaining exact paces. Perhaps this might be okay on a perfectly flat course, with a perfectly consistent life, and perfectly consistent nutrition. My life, however, is not that perfect. I live in East Tennessee (ridges!), eat imperfectly, and have a normal imperfect and unpredictable life. Hence, exact, precise, predictable paces are a not going to happen.
Worse yet is the worry about the past and future miles. In mile 20 of a marathon, I would be calculating what my average pace would have to be to reach certain goals. This is not relaxing! More stress and less focus add up to a slower pace. Another scenario is the long run. If you are struggling with a long run, thinking about the miles ahead is not going to help you relax and enjoy the run.
Thankfully, my Garmin 205 suffered a horrible accident and shattered. I replaced it with a Garmin 110. The Garmin 110 is just as accurate, but it does not display the current pace and overall pace. I can only see the total distance run, the time elapsed for the whole run so far, and the pace of the current mile. My stress level during runs has reduced significantly. I am much better at enjoying the run when my only info and focus is on the current mile. I am not trying to be exact, but I am aiming for a pace zone based on my goal for the day and the lay of the land I am running. If I am in a hilly mile, I will give myself extra time for that mile. If it is mostly downhill, I will speed it up.
Beyond the pace, I have also learned that this focus on the mile you are in does wonders for my mindset on a long run. I do not waste time figuring out how much I have left. That is a drag. I do not worry about how tired I am and how far there is to go, I only worry about the mile that I am currently running. This short-term outlook allows me to relax and to not focus on the pain of the coming miles. I simply finish the mile I am in and then start a new one.
This has helped my overall mindset and does especially well for me in the marathon. In the final miles, I try not to set goals based on my expectations for the day. I have learned instead to set my goals on the run. As I finish mile 21, I am setting my goal for my 22 based on how I feel. I ask myself, “What is the best mile that I can run without cramping and getting injured?” I can then check my Garmin periodically to see how I am doing versus how I am feeling. This is so much more relaxing than the constant ongoing multiple forms of analysis that I used to go through.
Relaxing and enjoying the run leads to better performance.
Focus on running the mile you are in.
Not the miles before. Not the miles after.
Train hard, eat well, & enjoy the run!
The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book.
– Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00
– Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99
– Ebook Version for Nook $2.99