Pacing (or failing to pace) with Pacers

As promised yesterday, last night’s workout was a 5.1-miler with our running group at Pacers, the super-cool running store near our house. Typically, the party gets started around 7 p.m. by a store employee breaking people up into pace groups. The 6-to-7-minute milers head out the door, then the 8-minute milers, then the 9-minute milers, and so on, with several intervals in between.

Week after week, we watch runners of all speeds declare a pace, then proceed to run exactly that pace. To me, it’s like watching people correctly predict tomorrow’s lottery numbers.

See, I can’t pace correctly for my life. My husband and current running buddy, Steve, isn’t much better. We’re great at “pacing ourselves” — i.e., running at a level of difficulty that we can sustain for however long we’re planning to run. It’s not that we’re sprinting out the door and crapping out a mile later. What mystifies us is how people can casually say, “I’m going to do 8:15-minute miles tonight,” then proceed to do exactly that. I set time goals for races, but if I’m being honest, when I see the big digital clocks at the mile markers, my time is always kind of a surprise.

When we first started running with Pacers, a store employee asked what pace we typically run. Steve and I were both silent, waiting for the other person to talk. “Somewhere in the 9-ish range,” I said. “Nine or, you know, 10-ish.” I looked at Steve. “Right?” I said. “Yeah,” he said. “Nine-ish, or 8-ish. Or 10-ish. More like 9-ish.” It took us a few runs in a row of making people sprint through what they’d hoped would be easy workouts, or slowing down people who were banking on hard workouts, before we found our people. As it turns out, the definition of “our people” is each other, and anyone else willing to put up with our crazy, sporadic asses.We usually end up tailing people a bit faster than us and hanging on for dear life (yet another motivator: Running with someone faster than you, then having to stick with them because you don’t know the way home).

We got to Pacers a couple minutes late last night, taking the pace declaration out of the equation. It was a great run, though. We did a new route, and it was pretty fabulous. The goes from Pacers in downtown Silver Spring, down quiet, residential Seminary Road and then past the looming craziness of the National Park Seminary, a complex that includes a Japanese pagoda, an English castle and the remains of a resort hotel. It’s being refurbished and turned into apartments and condos. For now, it’s a nice, if bizarre, diversion at the halfway point of the run. The run also provides a glimpse of the Mormon Temple, my friend from my Rock Creek Trail adventure last week.

Hopefully, Laura Cloher, who devises the Pacers fun-run routes, won’t mind me sharing the Seminary Road route here. Enjoy it — it’s a great run at any pace.

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