As we're finishing up our third mother runner book, we're going green this summer and recycling some of our blog posts. This post originally appeared on our site on March 15, 2011
For me, Saturday’s long run felt like a living parable. No, I wasn’t a tortoise, a crow, or a prodigal offspring. My tale felt like one about a mentor who inspires a fledgling, who then surpasses the guide without even realizing her own capabilities. (There's a Grasshopper in there somewhere...) In my version of the story, I’m the mentor who almost got dusted, yet I hung on to a shred of wisdom I should have imparted.
Backstory: Molly and I have carpooled to elementary school for 3+ years, grabbing five minutes of chitchat here and there as the minivan motor idled. Then I joined her book group, and we occasionally ran into each other at the gym. In the early stages of our friendship, when I’d rattle on about running, sarcastic Molly (don’t get me wrong, Mol: I love you—and your sharp wit!) would look at me like I was demented. But I must have shown her the light: She decided to hop on my crazy-train and start running. (She’s the one we mention in Run Like a Mother who wore her half-marathon finisher’s medal to Easter brunch.) Last summer, Molly got sidelined by a knee injury while training for what would have been her debut marathon. Her knee is pretty much okay-dokey now, so she signed up for the half-marathon in Portland’s Race for the Roses. I had registered, too, but I wasn’t motivated to train…until I offered to pull Molly to a sub-2:00 half-marathon finish. (Maybe I’m a donkey or ox in this parable?!) Molly had come close to two hours in her pre-Easter race—we only need to shave about five minutes off her time. Who cares we’ve never actually run together. (Oh, yeah, that little detail of our history…)
The course has a fairly steady climb, so I suggested we tackle one of Portland’s most popular long hills together—Terwilliger Blvd. Roughly 300 feet of climbing over nearly 2.5 miles. Molly was nervous about being too slow and holding me back. I brought my iPod in case she insisted I go ahead without her. This is where our weekend story starts: From the get-go, Molly set the pace—and I had to hustle to keep up. Our route started out with the slight incline of a bridge, and immediately I was huffing-and-puffing. I had to spur my legs to move faster than I’d planned. I was thankful for every stoplight, forcing us to wait for the Walk signal. All the while, upbeat Molly peppered me with questions—about running and my 2011 race calendar. Speaking in clusters rather than sentences, I felt a bit foolish talking about tackling 13.1 or 26.2 miles.
We were halfway up Terwilliger, when my hill-training started to pay off, before I felt our paces were evenly matched. But at the top, I was the one urging us to stop at the water fountain, not the unsinkable Molly. Throughout the 10.5 miles, I opened my mouth countless times to suggest we dial back the pace, but my over-inflated sports ego forced my trap shut. Just a week before, when I had run with my longtime running buddy, Ellison, I had spoken up about slowing down. Ellison eagerly agreed, saying she also felt we were going too fast. During that run, when we eased up, my mind shifted from thoughts of, “Stop!! Just stop!!” to, “Oh, yeah, let’s do this all day!” On Saturday, when I didn’t pipe up about slowing down, I never reached that happy place.
And both Molly and I paid for our enthusiasm (Molly) and pride (guilty as charged). Both of us crashed for the rest of the evening (we had run in the late afternoon)—Molly even fell asleep reading Runner’s World. I think the moral of this tale is obvious: Don’t let a fox’s flattering words make you drop the slice of cheese from your beak. Oh, wait, wrong tale: Sure and steady is the right pace for a long run.
What are your pacing techniques for long or short runs with other running buddies?