Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Wed, 27 Sep 2000 11:25:18 -0400

Patient Pace

(from RC 323)

While walking once between the start of the Portland Marathon and the finish of a 24-hour run, I passed a church. Chiseled in concrete on its wall was the line, "Run with patience the race set before you."

I later learned the words are Biblical, from Hebrews 12:1. They speak wisely to runners.

Races are exercises in patience. They're a long time in the planning, preparation and execution. Gratification is long delayed.

You work through what the British call "bad patches" to reach a better place. This is true not just in training for and running through races, but in a runner's lifetime.

Recent months have tested my patience. Without going again into the gory details, I came down with an illness in early May that didn't leave me for almost two months.

I'm still shaking off the after-effects. These weren't left behind by the illness itself but by inactivity. I'm now getting over the little or no running done during May and June.

Half-hour runs still feel like an hour did a few months ago. I run a "fast" mile in the time a normal one used to take.

This all will change. I know because it's already getting better, but only slowly.

Here's where patience comes in. I can't rush recovery, but must hold back, do the possible and wait for better days ahead.

Pace myself, in other words. The letters in "pace" start and end "patience," and are what the latter word is all about.

Pacing isn't just for racing but more so is a practice for longer periods of time. One year in a longtime runner's life is like a mile in a marathon.

You don't run the first mile in six minutes if you're planning to finish at an average of eight. And you don't push the pace too hard in any season or year if you still expect to be running strongly next year, or a decade or more down the road.

Either in races or in life, you can push hard for a short distance or back off for the long haul. Rare is the runner who can handle an intense pace for a long time.

Taking a longterm view is most important during a bad-patch period, or coming out of one as I am now. The urge is to break through the trouble -- to pick up the pace and make up for lost time.

This is a time to stay within comfort-zone pace. Let progress come instead of trying futilely to hurry it.

Run at a peaceful pace. "Pace" and "peace" are closely linked in more ways than sharing four letters. The Latin word for peace is pronounced "paw-chay" and spelled "pace."

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