Time-wise, I had a pretty great summer. After starting the year with a 28:32 5K in March -- to set an over-40 personal best -- I set my eye on breaking 28 minutes with the hope of going even lower. I almost got there a few weeks later when I ran 28-flat at a race in early May.
Though I flirted with sub-28 in my next several races, I never made it there, and bad race tactics were my undoing. I started getting into the habit of "running to my watch" by setting the exact pace I needed and tried to run to that number.
It just didn't work because I wasn't going by my natural rhythm of my running style. I was trying to force myself into a style that my body wasn't comfortable with, I was just forcing things too much.
It wasn't a matter of starting out too fast, because I often do that and it's OK. It hurts, but it's OK. My first mile in my 28:32 run in March was 8:38, but it didn't feel forced because part of the mile was downhill and I adjusted accordingly from there. I wasn't telling myself "you HAVE to run THIS pace!", like the habit I worked my way into, I was just running hard.
The best races are ones that just evolve that way, many times since I've started running I have run that way and had the best results. One that stands out to me was the 2007 Indy Mini Marathon, I just went out and ran, and in the course of running my half PR (1:42:35), I actually ran under my 5K and 10K PRs as I closed out the race!
"I guess if I really got to thinking about it, I just drove" -- Ricky Bobby, Talladega Nights
That was really my attitude about that day, and it worked! That is how I (and probably lots of people) run my best!
I started thinking about this after my run Saturday. I hadn't been using my Runtastic app, just running for fun, in a while, but decided to use it just to record my distance since because of the snow I had to make up a route and wanted to keep track of the distance.
I didn't look at my time at all, just went out and set a comfortable pace, and was surprised to find that I ran the first mile in 10:37, followed by miles of 10:44 and 10:43. I was feeling good so I decided to start upping the pace and blasted the last .75 miles at a 9:35 pace to drop my overall pace to 10:27 for the entire run!
Now, I ask you, if I had gone out and run to a 10:27 pace on the clock, do you think I would've had the same kind of run? I don't. The run evolved, which made it so cool, and when I look back at other epic races -- and even just training runs -- that were so good they will stick in my mind forever, that is the common theme.
So on Thursday, I'm just going to run like that. I have a time in my mind what I would like to run, but I'm not going to worry about times or splits, I'm going to run the race and see how it plays out. I'm looking forward to a great run...who knows, it might even be epic!