I’m not sure how I haven’t written this post in four different ways before, but it seems I haven’t. I’m numbers obsessed. I think a lot of us runners are. I have to get my Garmin to either a whole mile marker or a round time before I can stop the watch. Whether I run a distance or a time will depend on the day, but the determination to get to a round number is always there.
On top of being obsessed with round numbers from my runs, I’m also going through a process to work on not needing numbers on every run. I have been known to head out the door with multiple watches on for different purposes, and I have to get better about just running for feel without needing the immediate feedback.
Heart rates, paces, times, and distances tell me so much about how I’m doing that I sometimes don’t feel like I’ve done anything at all if I haven’t gotten numbers feedback to tell me about it. It’s like the old adage, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one was there to hear it, does it make a sound?” I’m just not sure I really ran if something doesn’t tell me how far I went or how hard it was.
Herein lies the problem: I often judge my runs by those numbers instead of how I feel on the runs. In fact, I often don’t even focus on what my body is telling me about my runs and how they’re going because I’m so focused on what those numbers tell me. I’ll see a certain pace that *should* be easy and will wonder sometimes why it feels moderate; other times I’ll see numbers that *should* be hard and will wonder how they feel so easy.
And worse than gauging running effort from numbers instead of my body is that I’ve realized that I’m using those numbers to tell me what I can and can’t do. As I’ve been building the miles and the speed back up after my stress fracture, I have had ideas of the exact paces that should be hard, easy, and moderate for me. To be specific, I have been looking at numbers with an 8 in front of them as harder for me. If I saw an 8 at the front of the pace I took it to mean that I should slow down and that it was too fast and I’d burn out.
I came to a realization today. I’m starting to get back to a point where a 9:00 or 8:55 pace on a midweek moderate run is just that–moderate. I can actually run at that pace fairly comfortably without feeling like I’m over exerting myself. I’m not sure if this is a step in overcoming my addiction to numbers or if it’s instead just resetting my focus to different numbers, but it has been helpful, and I think it will also make me faster. From here I can change how I view the 9:00 pace and the 8:30 pace and the long run pace. I’m ready to accept that I’m getting nearer to where I was pre stress fracture and that with a little more time, focus, and patience I’ll be back there and then under. I need to stop letting my numbers obsession and definition tell me if something is hard or easy, and I need to start actually feeling it for myself.
I have a tempo run tomorrow that will be very indicative of my fitness at the moment. It’s a 6 mile run with 4 at tempo, and I’m planning to attempt the tempo at around 8:10-8:15. Pre stress fracture I had a 30 minute tempo at 7:57, so it’s close. If I can hold the 8:10-8:15 for a couple of the miles feeling good then I may try to drop it a little more to see what I’m capable of. I don’t want to hurt myself, but I want to make sure that I’m adequately pushing myself as well. This will help me reset those standards of hard/moderate/easy that I can use.
For now I do want to recognize that seeing an 8:XX doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going “hard”, as I once had decided it did. I need to get comfortable with the number 8 and learn to love it. It’s not an uncomfortable place to be as long as I don’t make it out to be one.
Are you numbers obsessed?
Do you have certain paces in your head defined as your “easy”, “moderate”, or “hard” zones?
How frequently are you willing to change what your number definitions are?
Do you ever let your fear or love of certain paces dictate how you feel about your run instead of the actual way your body felt about it?