Am I Holding Myself Back?

Erin O had a question from the previous post (Cold Weather Running).  Does anyone have an answer for her? =)


I have a goal pace (GP) that I try to stick to for all of my long runs.  These  GPs change week to week based on how I felt the week prior as well as what McMillan’s calculator says I should be running. I aim for my first 2-3 miles to be a bit slower than that pace, the last 1-2 to be faster…and all the others to be in that range.  

My first few long runs after my son was born was in the 8:20-8:30 range.  Since then, I’ve been trying to stay around 8:10-8:15.  I’m back up to distances that I haven’t hit since before I was pregnant (Jan 2012) so I’ve tried really hard to be cautious about not expecting too much and running a smart long run (for me that means not starting too fast).  

I ran 16 miles this past Saturday.  My goal was to average somewhere between 8:10.  First four miles were right where I wanted them to be:

  • Mile 1: 8:32
  • Mile 2: 8:22
  • Mile 3: 8:17
  • Mile 4: 8:12
  • Average Pace: 8:21

The benefit of running early in the morning is that it is too dark for me to check my garmin (without pressing the light button), so I don’t check my pace until the mile beeps.  Mile 5 beeped and I looked down to see a sub-8 pace.

I got annoyed with myself for going too fast.  I kept repeating SLOW DOWN  SLOW DOWN  SLOW DOWN  over and over again.  I still had 11 more miles left to run.  Sub-8s this early would only burn me in the end.  

The barrage of negative thoughts continued in my head….they went something like this:

Stick to the plan.
Sub-8s aren’t part of the plan.  
You are running too fast. 
Speed doesn’t matter right now. Just log the miles. 

You need to learn to pace yourself better. 

But despite my best efforts to convince myself to slow down, I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  The pace I was running felt too comfortable.  I wasn’t out of breath.  I didn’t feel like I was exerting too much energy.  I felt strong.  I felt in control.

So I decided to just go with what felt right:

  • Mile 5: 7:55
  • Mile 6: 7:51
  • Mile 7: 7:57
  • Mile 8: 7:49
  • Mike 9: 7:53
  • Mile 10: 7:59
  • Mile 11: 7:58
  • Mile 12: 7:55
  • Mile 13: 7:58
  • Mile 14: 7:54
  • Mile 15: 7:47
  • Mile 16: 7:42
  • Average Pace (for last 12): 7:53

16 miles – 7:59 pace.  Last 12 miles were all sub-8 AND I finished with the fastest two miles of the day.  I ran the middle chunk of miles about 15 sec faster/mile than I had planned.  Pretty significant on a long run.

So it got  me thinking – have I been holding myself back in an attempt to be smart on these long runs?  Have I been overly cautious on some of my long runs? Should I be trying to push myself a bit more right now?

To be honest, I really am not sure.  Saturday could have been a beautiful fluke where everything lined up and gave me a great run.  Or I may already be back to running sub-8s on my long run.  I think I’m scared to embrace the later because I don’t want to go out next weekend with the hopes of replicating that run to be disappointed.  But I know if I cling to the former, it’s only because I’m scared of failing.  Thoughts?

How do you decide what pace to do your long runs at?

Do you ever throw caution to the wind and run at the pace that feels “right”?

Did you run long this weekend? 

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    20 thoughts on “Am I Holding Myself Back?

    1. Good discussion. My 2 cents … This doesn’t pertain to a long run per se, but I have a target time and/or distance in mind when I get out and run–and it also depends on the workout planned for that day (tempo, fartlek, speedwork, whatever)–but I make it somewhat malleable. That is to say, if I get out there and feel good, I will try to push it sometimes. Lately, I’ve been in the zone for getting negative splits on my runs and races. Anyway, in general, I try to keep LSD as just that, though I might try to throw in a faster mile or 2 here and there. As to whether I’m holding myself back, to my detriment, in training, I don’t know (and of course only you can answer that for yourself). FWIW, as a person in her 30s, right now my mentality is that I’m kind of taking the long view and being more cautious, for myself, to preserve my body for more years of running and racing.

    2. Wow! That’s got to be a new idea… maybe holding yourself in the 7 minute/mile range will become the new safe place for you. Seems like as long as you are listening to your body more than those negative thoughts while you are running and listening to how you feel after you might be onto something. One thing, though: DON’T tell yourself that you were holding yourself back. To me this seems like it’s probably part of your journey. You were trying to do the right thing and now you’re making an adjustment.
      BTW… you rock. Just sayin’! recently posted..Monday, Monday, Monday!My Profile

    3. I oftentimes feel I didn’t push myself enough, I think I can be faster. But then I don’t put all the training in and just get lazy. On big race days I lately get stomach issues and decided this year to run without any time pressure. I just want to run by feel. So all races this year I will just run with the Garmin set to distance and see what happens!
      Christine recently posted..Race #2: Charleston Half MarathonMy Profile

    4. I’d say it’s time for a tune up race to see where you are at to see if your goal pace is too slow or if you really do need to work at slowing down. I think it is important to run your long runs slow, but that of course is relative to your current fitness.

    5. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt occasionally to go faster than planned – it may not give the so-called optimum training benefit, but is sure is a confidence builder. And if you felt so great on the day, I would try and identify why that was so – what you ate, recent training, time of the month, sleep, etc – and learn from that for your next race!
      Sherry recently posted..Improving, I ThinkMy Profile

    6. I do the same thing so many times! Although my fast pace is not nearly what yours is. But I have come to take my week day runs and try to push myself on those but then my weekend runs are relaxed and if I feel good and fast then I go fast, if I don’t then I don’t and I just get them done. I think you are smart for letting yourself run at a comfortable pace and maybe you have been holding yourself back. Either way great job and just take each run as it comes and enjoy it, no matter if it’s faster or slower than you think it will be!
      Lauren @ The Unlikely Runners recently posted..The One With Land Of Oz Marathon Training {Week 5}My Profile

    7. I have the same problem these days. I don’t have the decades of experience to know if going sightly faster that my plan requires is going to hurt me or that maybe I should use a plan meant for a faster pace. Please someone tell me! I know that the people who develop these plans come up with these paces for a very specific reason, so I often ask myself, “am I sabotaging my own training?” or “am I faster than I think I am?”
      Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..Strawberry Napoleon with #SilkAlmond Pastry CreamMy Profile

    8. This is an awesome time! I always go with just feels right and not worry about time. I am awful at pacing myself so go really fast at the beginning then just want to kill myself at the end.

      I didn’t run long, I didn’t plan on running, but with the beautiful weather yesterday I squeezed a mile and a half in regardless. And about three miles on Saturday.
      Emily @ FitMamaInTheCity recently posted..Weekly Workout Plan #2My Profile

    9. I’m a big believer in doing long runs at whatever pace feels good. If I’m well rested and sub 8’s pop out comfortably, then I go with it!!

      But if I did a killer hill workout on Thursday/Friday and my legs are not fresh, I just stick with the comfortable subscribed pace.

      I run my long runs at a comfortable pace and sometimes I do keep myself on the edge of comfort but I ALWAYS remember to tell myself that it’s not a race because I don’t want to burn my legs out and have a non-productive workout the next day.

      Keep up the awesome work!!!
      Katherine @ Neon Blonde Runner recently posted..Greek Yogurt Cake Batter DipMy Profile

    10. Sometimes my long runs feel like a ton of bricks, and others I just can’t go fast enough. Do what feels right for that day. Sticking to a plan is great, but you’ve been running for quite a while. IMO, your body knows what it wants! Go for it! Just don’t be mad if the next run isn’t as perfect. :) Awesome run my speedy friend!
      beka @ rebecca roams recently posted..A Second LoveMy Profile

    11. Wow you are one speedy lady!! Congrats. I love when you have runs that just flow and everything falls into place.

      I always try to finish my run faster than i started. I only recently got a garmin to truly see that i am doing this, but I also try to stick around a certain pace on long runs because I fear what would happen if I push and am not able to finish. Its foolish because a family member could always come pick me up, or i could walk if I pushed to hard. I try to remember that when i mentally am telling myself to slow down or am going to fast.

      I did run long this weekend although my long was 5.28 miles. Sometimes its nice to run naked and then you just do what feels right for your body and forget the pace.

    12. Do you have problems holding yourself back on tempo and/or speed workouts? There was a reason you have selected the goal for this training cycle. I always watch my runners and see if several runs/workouts are being held back. Also, telling yourself to “stick to the plan” is not negative talk. IMHO it’s the self comment not utilized ENOUGH in a runners self talk!

      • NO! Not at all on speed/tempo days. I push to the limit on those days. HA =) Just these long runs that get me. 2 hours is a long time to be alone with your thoughts. I’m constantly going back and forth with how I should be running. LOL.
        Thanks for the comment, Gary. Means a lot coming from you =)

    13. I like to go by how I feel but that does not always work out for me! I was for a long time logging most of my miles based on how I felt and getting discouraged that I was not getting out of the 8:25 range. Then I mixed it up a bit, did a little speed a day and ran even slower a day and was able to get that 8:00 min pace for a 10 mile run I was looking for. Thurs. I went out and did 7.25 at a 7:24 pace which is really good for me. The next day I was a little sore. That may not be the pace I should do a lot of my runs at but it felt good. I say sometimes if it feels good and you are having an on day just go with it! But know not to be disappointed if the next one is more like what you plan. I think if we never just go with our on days we might totally hold ourself back. Who knows maybe you body is adjusting and the training you have been doing has made that speed your new normal! That being said I make sure to have slow days and not feel bad about them and I take 1 day off totally.
      That was an awesome run! I have not done a run that long in a while. Much above 12 makes me nervous right now.

    14. As a coach I always have to tell my runners to slow down on LSD days (Long Slow Distance). The goal for a long run allow you body to build milage. Running it too fast or as at “stamina run” to use a MacMillian term negates the purpose of the long run. A LSD run should not feel like work, that’s what tends to freak competitors out (I can tell you are a competitor!) so they run faster to make sure they are getting something out of the workout. 16 miles at an 8:00 pace it brutal on the body, long runs are designed to make that brutality, as well as the next long run, bearable. I’ve been following you and your training and your speed work is outstanding! Long runs should be easy on the legs…they are almost as frustrating as rest days! However you need to run them correctly so that when you run your marathon you can duplicate the type of run you ran yesterday! As a coach my question would be, could you have run 10 more miles at that pace? Due to physical issues I cannot run a marathon now (I over trained and really hurt myself). I envy you! Keep at it but do it safely! Sorry for the long post!

    15. This is such a tough one! I always feel like long runs should be easy (unless there is prescribed pace work in there). It sounds like you were quite comfortable at the sub-8 pace, so I’d say try your next one at that pace also and see what happens. If good again, maybe you should adjust? I think it’s great that you let your body dictate that pace–probably the best indicator we can ever have.

      I did my 18 on Sat. after my hard 8 on Fri. I was so, so glad to be finished when I finally got to 18! But it was a good way to do it and mimic that tired feeling at the end of the marathon.
      misszippy1 recently posted..Making depositsMy Profile

    16. Honestly, most people run their easy long runs too fast. If you look at what you should be running (not the wide range McMillan gives, but the avg of other calculators as well), you’ll find that anyone running slower than a 3 hr marathon should be avg around 8 or slower for their EASY long runs. Once you start adding pace work, obviously that changes though. The problem with running by feel (which is what most people do), is that you can fall into the “feel good” trap. Just because you could go faster doesn’t mean you should. That said, its ok every now and then to go a little faster. There will be days like this one where everything seems easy, but probably also days where it is a struggle. In general though trust your plan and stick to it!

    17. you have been doing a lot of speed work so I think your body is capable when all goes right (fuel/recovery/sleep/etc). How did you feel after? could you have gone further? How did you feel the next day? Personally I log how i feel after and a day later so I know next time if I went too fast or could have bumped it up.
      Excellent work!! :)