Combating Time and Distance Neurosis

Last evening I received the following inquiry from and old friend and thought that the response my entertain some endurance athletes out there.  Enjoy.

The Question:

I was talking with a crew coach a while back and we were discussing timing/watches and performance. I am really into running now and my fastest times (e.g. 5K) are when I do NOT have a watch and do NOT know my mile splits. It seems like when I know my pace I slow down. Now, when I did the Cape Cod marathon last fall I did not know my splits and went out too hard. The crew coach related to me that his girls do better on their erg (rowing machine) tests when they do not know the splits.

Any thoughts reputable sports shrink?

My Thoughts:

I love your “problem.”  I’m a huge believer that times and distance are what drives runners and rowers crazy.  They become neurotic about these things rather than using them as simple guide posts on the road to the final result.  To me, the ultimate runner is one that could walk

Visit 26.2 for Lisa to support the team.

out with sneakers, shorts, and a t-shirt and simply run about up to his or her potential.  The runner that can create an internal pace clock is the one that is able to focus on being a runner rather than being a time keeper.  This is a challenging task, only the best of the best have perfected this incredible self-knowledge.  Nonetheless it is something all runners should strive towards.  Becoming split dependent can confine the athlete rather than allow for maximum potential to arise.

Here are my quick thoughts on mental management for endurance sport.  Don’t plan your marathon by splits, but rather by thirds… how would you like to start, how will you manage the middle, and how would you like to finish.  In reality, for marathons, it is usually the middle that needs the most mental management.  The ideas you come up with might not be time-based.  They could simply be about the attitude, technique, or emotion that will be brought to each stage of the race.  Consider things this way – splits are useful, but should not become a restricting focus of any endurance athlete.  Times and distance foci need to be balanced with one’s own internal running barometer.

Supplementary video – Keep the Middle In Mind for Success:

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