The Middle Miles
The Middle Miles
Running today, I was reminded of the mentally toughest part of almost every workout for me: the middle miles.
I have been laying off the run for a few weeks now because of a bruised foot. Had a couple of slow runs during that time, but no real progress; just holding the running in place until I healed. Today finally felt 100% healthy so did a tempo run to get a good session in, as well as to gauge my speed. Speed at distance is a training priority right now. I had made good progress before my injury and wanted to see if I have held, improved on, or lost the gains of earlier this year.
I went out pretty aggressively for the first third, felt great. Then the dreaded malady of the middle miles threatened. For me, the middle third of virtually any training session is the hardest. The first third is easiest: you’re full of energy and fuel, excited for the workout, ready to have a great day, so going hard is relatively easy. The last third is also pretty enjoyable: you’re almost there, so it’d be a shame not to make the workout stick with a strong finish. Plus, you’re almost done - no sense in saving anything.
It is those middle miles that can make having an effective workout really hard. You’re past the initial fuel surge, but you’re not yet inspired by the knowledge that the finish is near. You may be saying to yourself something like: “This a tough run. Don’t know if I can keep it up for x more miles at this pace.” Keeping focused for those middle miles requires a lot of concentration to ensure that you accomplish what you set out for at the beginning of the day. Part of me knows I can hold the tempo for the whole run; part of me is asking why. Part of me is saying that I need to hold the tempo because that is the goal for the run; part of me is saying that I can always try it again on another day. Ensuring the most effective training session depends on listening to the confident side.
Lately my confident side has been winning. Ended up going about 9 miles at an 8:15 average, with some strong negative splits toward the end and a strong finish. The middle miles were the weak point of the run, but I felt strong and didn’t give in to the sensation of wanting to slow down much. More and better progress depends on executing my training plan well; the conscious recognition that it is easy to slow down in the middle, but that I need to keep going hard when that’s part of the plan, was what kept me going today. And in doing that, I built more confidence that I will continue to be able to go faster and further.
The next time you have a tough training day, think of the middle miles before you start. Recognize that the middle miles may be the toughest as your fuel pathways begin to work harder and your aerobic capacity begins to get taxed. Good mental preparation can get you through this patch. Also recognize that great execution of these middle miles will add not only to your physical fitness, but also your mental ability to fight through difficult days and difficult miles to come.
Would love to hear of any strategies you may have about tackling those middle miles.