Thursday, December 4, 2014

Truly Conversational Pace

For years, I've had a rule of thumb for some of my runs--if I want to consider the run to be not too taxing, a key question is "can I carry on a conversation?"  Over time, I've learned that I can, if necessary, carry on a conversation at 8:00/mile and sometimes even at 7:45/mile pace.  But I have had very few runs with others at that pace for the entire way this training season.  On the track, the warm up, cool down, and rest intervals are that slow or slower, but the main intervals are invariably faster than that.  For a tempo or progression run, the start (and sometimes the end) was slow, but some of the miles were run at 7:15 or faster.  Not too much conversation at that pace.  Even most of my long runs this training season ended at 7:30 or better as I trained my body to anticipate increased efforts at the end.  And at the end of 15-20 miles at 7:30 or better, I'm not having much of a conversation.  Finally, most of my "general maintenance" (to use Shannon's terminology) miles were run at 8:15-8:30.  But most of those were run alone.  So not much conversation there.

In any case, today I met up with Jackie (who helped me through the last four miles in Philly 11 days ago) to run seven just to catch up.  The seven were a familiar seven miles--the tempo loop that we have used during training seasons for two years now.  From the southwest side of the Dunbar track up to Madison, across to Fallsway, down to Baltimore, across to Exeter, down to Aliceanna, across to Boston, across to Linwood, back up to Baltimore, up the hill by Patterson Park (a very useful thing to get ready for hills during long races), over to Central, up to Monument and back to the start.  And to get 7.0 rather than 6.5, a lap around the Dunbar field but on the sidewalk.

The run took a little over an hour.  In part, because we seemed to hit traffic everywhere at 5:30 this morning.  But, in part, because we ran a truly conversational pace.  Jackie is pacing one more marathon this year, but I have no more races on m calendar at this point.  So, we just ran.  Just to enjoy running rather than with any other goal in mind.  Other than to catch up after the race in Philly.  As Jackie had suggested in email to "runner nerd out" about the race.  We did.  But we also talked about running in general.  Families.  Catholic parishes.  Welcoming.  Compassion.  Music ministry.  You name it.  We might as well have been chatting over a long coffee at Starbucks or over a beer or two at Zen West.

This is part of what makes running so enjoyable.  It is an exercise that for two people who are comfortable running the same pace, you can get a good cardio workout, get a decent workout for the legs, and have a wonderful conversation while covering seven miles all in a little over an hour.  I don't know what anyone near us would have thought of hearing two runners talking about Catholic church bulletins, parishes led by female pastoral life directors, and hills in the Philadelphia marathon all in one run.  But it doesn't matter.  The beauty of a conversational pace is that just about anything is fair game during the workout.

And that is part of what makes running such a great activity for me.

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