A special kind of awful

No matter how often I remind myself that tempo runs are supposed to be uncomfortable and challenging, I am always struck by the same particular brand of awfulness that defines every tempo effort.

Today I had a 4.5 mile tempo run tacked onto the end of a 9.5 general aerobic run. My legs were tired today and all day I had tinitus in the form of a little, whiny voice muttering less-than-encouraging warnings: “You’re too tired. You’re too slow. You won’t be able to do it. Wait until tomorrow…”

The fact is, it’s never the right time for a tempo run, just as there’s never the right time for getting a mammogram. It’s extremely unpleasant, but if you want to become a faster runner (or obtain a reasonable sense of certainty that your breasts aren’t diseased), you’ve gotta schedule that sucker.

Long story short: I ran my 9.5 at a respectable 8:30ish pace, got to the track and tried to get my head in order. I ran 2 miles at 10-12 seconds slower than assigned pace and went through what I’d been trying to avoid — a litany of internal recriminations and the temptation to call this one a failure and stop. I took 30 seconds to collect myself, then ran another mile — even worse at 15 seconds off pace. Then another minute of pep talk, followed by a commitment to run the last 1.5 without stopping and putting up with any of my own shit, with the added bargain that I would work as hard as I could and accept whatever that yielded. In other words, don’t look at pace. Just run.

In the end, I was an average of 13 seconds per mile off pace. I need to remember that running a new, faster pace is hard and takes some people (or at least me) a few tries to adapt to it. I will eventually be able to run at 6:53 for 4.5 (and more) miles. Just not today.

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