The shorter the race, the faster the pace

By Gary Droze

Which race distance do you consider more challenging: the mile or 5000 meters? Beginning runners may find this question absurd; for the neophyte, longer obviously equates to harder. For the many area runners who log more than three miles every day, however, the mile race is generally more intimidating. They know that the shorter the race, the faster one must run to be competitive. Moreover, the abrupt, startling discomfort brought on by faster-paced running feels altogether different from the gradual, familiar onset of fatigue associated with the mellower pace of longer races.

Basically, the 5000 meter race measures a runner’s aerobic energy system (endurance), while an all-out mile race also tests the runner’s anaerobic capability (lactic acid clearance). Because the great majority of the typical running clubber’s training is at a relaxed pace that merely adds layers of endurance, most of us are unprepared for the consequences of ratcheting up the tempo.

Actually, the local race calendar rarely exposes our collective lack of preparation for the mile. Most events on the Gulf Winds Track Club Grand Prix are at least 5000 meters, and the tendency has always been to emphasize even longer distances. But a few mile races are always lurking on the club calendar, including two in the next five weeks: The Run For The Cookies on February 14th, and The Bellevue Downhill Mile on March 2nd.

For those who cannot contrive a reasonable excuse for ducking these races, I offer my favorite workout for mitigating the body slam of duress that a hard mile can visit upon you. This workout entails running 1000 meters at a pace you wish you could hold for a mile, then walking/jogging for 200 meters, then launching into 600 meters at simulated race pace again, then another 200 meter recovery, and finally throwing yourself into 400 meters with whatever you have left. The fatigue you encounter in this session will be quite similar to that of a true mile race, but the short recovery breaks should allow you to hold a pace you want to achieve on race day.

Or you could try Plan B: circle the days on the calendar that feature those wicked mile events, and arrange to be out fishing instead. This works for me every time.