Finding the Perfect Pace

Lessons from Unexpected Teachers

Online influencers, running group coaches, my much-faster friends: all have impacted my running life with their words and actions. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on a few of the unexpected teachers who’ve taught me lessons in pacing I certainly wasn’t expecting.

From the “Class Clown”

In high school, I was deeply into books, Seinfeld, and hanging out with friends. I wasn’t very active, but there were a few times when I attempted to get into running. As I jogged down a neighborhood street, a boy I knew was outside too. To be “funny,” he literally ran circles around me as I continued on my way, keeping up an effortless, sassy conversation—his way of underscoring how mockably slow he thought I was. He thought he was pretty entertaining, but it sucked. What did I learn? First, it’s deeply uncool to make a joke at someone else’s expense. Also, that some people care a lot about their pace, your pace, and how they compare. But my pace was my pace, regardless of what other people might think or say. If I were going to continue running, it would be for myself—not to impress anyone else.

From My Dog

I have an incredibly friendly, smart, energetic dog who is better than me at all physical feats—except endurance running. He has zero interest in steady, consistent effort. For him, running is a means to the best end imaginable: exploring the world! I see Felix’s priorities in his friendly expression and curious eyes: who you’re with, who you meet, what you smell, what squirrels you attempt to chase, the parks you pass through. His approach forces me to be more present to my surroundings. Yes, there are many speed adjustments and occasional sharp veers off the path. He sometimes simply flops on his side in the middle of the road, not out of tiredness but because there’s something he must look at, and otherwise I’ll succeed in rushing him away. Our pace? Unimpressive. But as Felix constantly conveys, the pace is so clearly not the point. We’re outside!!! Get excited!

From Within

Sometimes, it’s my own inner voice that tells me exactly what I need to hear, when I need to hear it. I was struggling on a hot July day and wanted to pause for a break before running up a hill. I was slowing when these words crossed my mind, unbidden: “It’s running. It’s supposed to be hard.” This unprompted mantra put what I was doing into perspective. I didn’t choose running because it was easy, so why was I expecting it to feel that way? I shifted my perspective—the next section would feel hard, and that was okay. I ran on without needing that break after all. //

Sarah Hauge is a writer, editor, and grant writer who lives in Spokane with her husband and two kids. She’s looking forward to running the Sundae Sunday 10-miler in September—and (more importantly) the ice cream at the finish.

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