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November 15, 2005

The View From the Front

This morning our training group did our regular Tuesday run, a hilly 13-mile loop through two adjacent valleys in Steinbeck Country, an area the late author famously named "The Pastures of Heaven" (pictured).

Our two fastest runners were absent, and the rest are in tapering mode in preparation for the California International Marathon in 2 weeks. They would be taking it much easier than usual today.

Which meant I could probably keep up with them.

Normally I can hang with this group, but lately my speed has been lacking, as I've explained before. I was happy to be able to stay in the pack as we strung out across the major climb from miles 4.5 to 6.

Down the backside of the hill, I let my legs turn over more quickly, and slowly pulled ahead of the others. I figured it would only be a few seconds before they caught up to my pace once we were on level ground again.

Then the weirdness started. One mile later, I was still running by myself. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw everyone in the distance, but not gaining any ground. Knowing they were sure to catch me soon, I kept my stride comfortable and didn't overexert myself trying to hold them off.

Another mile went by, and another, and I realized that I was going off the front. The group had strung out now, and only one other runner was in sight behind me.

Just to clarify: any one of those guys could have reeled me in. They just decided not to.

So I assumed the mentality of a frontrunner.

I've pulled away from this group at other times, usually when I'm in much better shape or when the others are plodding through very high mileage weeks. But it hasn't happened since last spring, and the feeling was unusual at first.

Running off the front changes your perspective, and instills a sense of confidence, regardless of what speed you are running. If you pull away from a pack of 10-minute milers by running 9:30s, the feeling is probably the same as I felt stringing together 6:30s this morning to lead the pack home.

Although the pace started hurting with about 5K to go, my determination to hold off the pack propelled me through the final miles. When I inevitably began to tighten up in the last mile, I was far enough ahead that I could cruise to the finish and still feel great about my overall effort.

When I clicked the stopwatch, I found that I had run about 4 minutes faster than last time. And at that moment, I felt a trace of my long-lost mojo coming back.

Sure, everyone else was taking it easy this morning. At this point, I'm taking every moment of encouragement I can find to eventually regain my groove, and today's run was just what I needed.


Mike 11/16/05, 10:05 AM  

Hi Donald. Saw your question on Choc Runner's blog about getting info on what searches led to your blog.

I use Sitemeter (www.sitemeter.com). They have a free service. You do a little HTML jiggery (pretty well-documented) and then they store data for you on who has come to your blog and what the referring URL was. The stats can be addictive.

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