Posted by: thehungryrunner | May 24, 2010

Benefit of Running #6,721: The glee of unexpected speedy days!

One of the first lessons you learn as a runner is that speed is definitely a relative term.  Some people are born with bodies with a natural ability to run fast; others (that would be moi) not so much.  Now before I get myself into trouble and come off as a snobby runner, I’m aware that I’m not usually a super-slow runner.  In races, I’m typically middle of the pack, often the top 3rd in terms of finishing time.  So I must appreciate that there are others whose bodies struggle for speed even more than mine.

Even so, it doesn’t change the fact that one runner’s idea of lightening-fast is another runner’s idea of tortoise-slow.  I have friends who began running long after I did, and whose pace and/or distances quickly surpassed my own, and who don’t even consider their speed above that of a “jog” or their distance anything more than a “nice weekend jaunt.”  Humbling, to say the least!

But it also doesn’t change the fact that when one suddenly experiences an unexpected burst of speed, relative to their normal pace, it can truly make one’s day and send one’s confidence soaring!  Such a burst for me came last Wednesday, May 19 (you can tell the impact it had  on me as I’m writing about it 5 days later), when I set out for what I’d initially hoped would be about a 5-mile run, with some walking thrown in afterward to cool down.  Firstly, I realized upon setting out that I was dressed way too warmly for the sudden return of mild temperatures (the day before never made it out of the 50’s and was cloudy and windy all day).  There’s a loop I sometimes do in my immediate vicinity that I was pretty sure covers 1.5 miles.  So I decided to run that loop, dash inside the house, change into something lighter, then run the balance of about 3.5 miles.  Plan in place.

I ran the loop and glanced at my watch.  Hmmm.  Only 12-13 minutes had passed.  Strange, I could swear I normally require about 18 or so minutes to complete that loop.  Oh well, I’ll double-check the distance later, when I use the online mapping program (I do this a lot, make a game of running wherever, guestimating how far it was, then calculating it using a mapping tool and checking the accuracy of my guess).

So I set out for the additional 3.5 miles.  But soon after, I realized that I had a great rhythm going, and decided it’s been too long since my last 7-miler, so increased my goal to 5.5 miles instead.  I thought through the time frame, and settled on a grand total of 85 minutes to allocate for this run.  Even at my slowest, easiest training pace, I will cover at least 7 miles in 84 minutes, as this is a 12-minute-per-mile pace.  Cool.

So I run the 85 minutes (well, 73, remember I had already covered 12-13 minutes in that initial loop), walked my cooldown, stretched out, and after my shower, sat down at my computer to calculate my distance.

Lo and behold!  That initial loop?  The one I’d covered in 12-13 minutes (yeah, I wish I’d have been more accurate in looking at my watch)?  1.85 miles!  That’s a pace of between 6:30 and 7:00 minutes per mile!  Understand, my typical 5K race pace is anywhere from 8-9 minutes per mile (I did manage a couple of sub-8:00 paced 5K’s in late 2008), and my best effort at a 1-mile test — on the track with my husband at the stopwatch — was 7:30.  I recalculated and recalculated and recalculated again.  I am stunned and without explanation as to why I was able to so completely obliterate all of my previous pace PR’s, but there it is.

And the sum total for my 85 minutes?  Not 7 miles, but 8.7 miles!  A sub-10:00 pace on a long training run for me.  Again, unheard of, especially since this wasn’t my goal at all — I just wanted to go out and run a nice, strong 5-miler.

Will wonders never cease.  My this afterglow never dim!



  1. Congratulations. Thanks for sharing.

    I haven’t trained for an event for 3 years (new child), and now that I’ve picked a race and started back running, I am surprised about my current pace. Of course it’s nowhere near yours, but for me it’s wonderful. I hope to continue to build on that.

    • Way to go! I’m glad you’ve honed in on a race and have resumed your running. It must feel so good, especially with your pace doing so well already. Keep up the great work, it’ll be a wonderful gift both to yourself and your family!

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