discipline: running steady

erratic analysis – image © https://pixabay.com/users/Mediamodifier-1567646/

Pick any of my long run experiments so far (e.g. #3) and one thing keeps surfacing as an immediate complaint – discipline. Exceptions are rare. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 2-mile block or a 6-mile effort, my self-pacing ability is in need of serious attention. Today, I decided to go for a run to see just how bad things are. How far do I deviate from a target pace when my sole goal is to focus on it?

the goal

Short runs are easy to control with respect to pace. No sooner has the run started than it is nearing completion and you don’t get much time to let the mind wander. As such, I thought that a run somewhere in the 10-mile or more bracket would be suitable for this test. It turned out to be just over 11 miles in the end. I couldn’t even show discipline to measuring the distance – a great start!

I wanted to run a comfortable but not too slow pace. Being a fan of odd numbers I set my pace goal for 7:57 per mile. Why go for 8s when you can have a more interesting figure? This pace shouldn’t stress me while it also wouldn’t see me inject a couple of much faster miles by accident. An altogether sensible target for discipline testing. The outcome is shown below.

trying to show discipline while running an achievable pace goal shows up some of my bad habits on long runs
trying to show discipline while running an achievable pace goal shows up some of my bad habits on long runs

analysis

Positives: I started well. 🙈 Very small ebb and flow over the first 4 miles but a pretty steady effort for 7:57 pace. Then I hit a downhill stretch and it appears that all regard for pacing discipline was abruptly flung out of the nearest window. I don’t even recall getting sucked into it.

Looking at the splits between miles 5 and 10 is just depressing. It would have been a nice 11-mile run on any given day but the sole focus of this was to run a steady pace and I did not. Even when I dropped the pace below target, it still didn’t stay steady but bobbed up and down every mile. There wasn’t even a big elevation change that could explain it in some way. No, just a complete lack of focus and discipline.

Anyone who knows me will know that I do enjoy numbers and calculating trivial things. I did a quick calculation on the splits from this run to discover the standard deviations (i.e. how much on average, each mile varied from a known target). The results show that if I didn’t have a target pace in mind, each split was ±7.8s from the overall average of the run. However, with my target 7:57 pace in mind, the standard deviation is a far worse result of ±9.28s per mile.

not everyone likes calculations but in case you do, here's proof that I have no discipline, even in the easiest of situations
not everyone likes calculations but in case you do, here’s proof that I have no discipline, even in the easiest of situations

what to do?

Get a grip would be the simplest answer. Stop obsessing might be another. However, I see this as being a real problem, especially over longer distance runs. If I can’t run to a steady pace, especially if I tend to run faster than I should, I’m quite likely hurting target times by running too hard.

Despite the fact that I’m very curious about the potential of a multi-stage parabolic pacing strategy for a marathon, I still need to be able to control the fast intervals and not overdo it. Running with a metronome isn’t going to solve this problem either. The solution may be to run with the min/max pace alerts set on my watch every day. That way I could set it to vibrate and buzz on my wrist whenever I leave the desired range. Tech limitation announcement: Garmin, please enable different alerts for min/max pacer alerts. Currently, the watch just buzzes the same for either, meaning I have to still look down to see what I’m doing wrong.

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