It was a slow start when I returned to running after a years-long hiatus. Literally. A two to three mile run-walk (or, more accurately, walk-jog) left me breathless and struggling to remember why, again, was I doing this? After a few months, the pieces started to come together and while I was by no means fast, at age 44 I was posting life-long personal bests in middle distance races, and I came to view every run as a new opportunity to see whether I could eke out a slightly faster time. That game ended when I started to train for the marathon, and I was instructed to slow down – way down – and to learn to train at my marathon pace.
My marathon pace was the pace that was meant to sustain me for the long haul. A full minute slower per mile than what had become my norm, it became my two-mile warm up and my two-mile cool down. My marathon pace was my break between intervals. My marathon pace was what got me through 14 miles, and 18, and eventually 26.2.
And ever since the race, my marathon pace has become my fallback position.
Fairly driven by personality, there is something inside of me that begs me to answer the question: How far or fast can I really push this? And I will test it … but with the reassuring knowledge that I if I need to, I can fall back to my marathon pace – a relaxed speed that I can slow down to until I am recovered enough to take on more. Sometimes I will back it down, and sometimes the simple knowledge that I can slow down to catch my breath if I need to is enough to actually keep me going forward full-bore.
As in running, so in life, there are times when by choice or circumstance I am pushed farther than I think I can manage and stressed beyond my comfort zone. Days are full of the demands of work and family and life, all of it punctuated by the bzzz bzzz bzzz of electronic devices clamoring for their share of my attention. It all can leave me exhausted by the time I cash it in at night, and almost equally tired when I wake up in the morning with thoughts of what still needs to be done. This is when it is most important to remember my marathon pace – how to rejuvenate when life and all of its busy-ness has brought me to the edge of what I can sustain.
Life’s marathon pace includes permission to ignore that extra load of laundry and take a nap. To pause in the middle of yard work to smell the roses and take in the blue sky. To let the dishes dry themselves and go for a walk. To read a book to a child. To enjoy an excellent cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a friend.
Life’s marathon pace is permission to slow down so that you can carry on strong for the long haul. Take it.