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The Middle Miles

August 29, 2008

The middle miles are the Rodney Dangerfields of long-distance running: they don’t get any respect. In spite of this, they are often where races are won and–in very serious ways–lost. So they are important, both in training and in racing.

In training, use the first miles to warm up. For me, I have to actually concentrate on keeping my pace very slow during the first mile (the first three miles of long runs), or every run will become a speed workout as I tend to get faster during my training runs unless I am very tired or running a course I’m unfamiliar with. During the middle miles of easy and long runs I really try not to even worry about my pace. I concentrate on running these miles by feel. Instead of thinking about my pace, I try to concentrate on my form. Head up, shoulders back. Unless it’s still dark out and I’m likely to turn an ankle if I don’t look down every once in a while, my eyes should always be up and ahead of me, not down at my feet.

In racing, after avoiding the deadly mistake of allowing race-day adrenaline and the crowd to dictate my pace, my goal is to hit the middle miles and find my target pace. Having achieved this, if training has been ideal and conditions are conducive to good racing, I try to feel myself cruising at this pace, not struggling to hold it, not feeling like I’m pushing it. Go out too slow, and you can’t make it up in the latter miles. Race too hard in these miles, and you’ll burn yourself out and find yourself too tired in the glory miles when you’re supposed to be finding your kick.

Warm up the beginning miles–but not too many of them. Cruise the middle miles. Kick it in the end.

The middle miles was the TIART prompt at Runner’s Lounge last week. I thought I’d write about it because it seemed an interesting topic. Sorry I’m a week late.

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