The middle miles. Whether it's the 2nd mile of a 5k, miles 6-9 of the half, or the middle intervals of your speed work - those middle miles can be tricky.
If the middle miles are rough for you, you're not alone. Many runners struggle with them.
The middle miles can be likened to tough patches in life. They're what build and shape you. They're where you find out what you're made of. Quite frankly, they can be the "do or die" miles - the ones that make or break your race.
So how do you deal with "middle mile syndrome"? How do you push through this, and use the miles to your advantage?
Let's start at the beginning. Don't go out too fast. Whether it's a race or a workout, if you go out too hard, you're going to hit that wall. Don't get too big for your britches at the start and try to hang with the leaders if you know you can't. Line up and start in the appropriate place, and run the appropriate pace. Race day is exciting, it always will be. But don't get so caught up in the excitement that you go so hard out of the gate that you're dead by the half mile mark.
Now, even if you start well, the middle miles can be difficult. So, you need to design your training in a way that helps you with this challenge. Essentially, your workouts need to simulate aspects of your race. Remember how we did the mile repeat workout followed by 200s to help simulate hitting it hard on tired legs at the end of the race? That's what we are talking about - you need to teach your body what to do. In theory, the more specific the workout is to the race, the more prepared the athlete should be for the race on race day. Other factors can come into play (weather, illness, etc) but in general, prepare yourself well for the middle miles, and you'll be able to kick butt.
That being said, your workout doesn't have to be at exact race pace to be race-specific. For example, a 3-5 mile tempo isn't as hard as a race, but the lack of rest is still going to test you at roughly the same place where your race will be difficult. In addition, aiming for race specific workouts doesn't mean each workout needs to be in all-out race mode. It just means you need to teach your body how to work though these rough miles in a way that can benefit you on race day.
Another part of this is mental. You know by now that running is as much a mental sport as a physical one. Most people pick up the pace at the end of the race. If you can really do this, it means you could've gone harder in the middle miles. Don't overthink during your race. Focus on racing and what your body can do. Remember that you can do it. If you start to doubt yourself, think of the hard workouts you've done, and the past PRs you've earned.
You need to admit that the race or workout will be hard. If you think it will be easy, you're setting yourself up for failure. If it is easy, you need to race harder. Don't be afraid to fail your way to success. Use what you’ve learned from races where you've hit the wall or died during those middle miles. What did you do leading up to those miles. Did you go out hard? Did you train properly? Use that knowledge to help you train for your next race.
Remember that nutrition can play a part here as well. We all want to look and feel good, but you need to remember to fuel your body like an athlete. This means taking in enough good calories to keep your body running in tip top shape. Take care of yourself so you are able to push through those middle miles. If you're not fueling your body properly, you cannot expect it to perform the way you would like it to. Not only does this mean eating well (not saying you can't enjoy some cake here and there - everything in moderation), but it also means consuming enough calories. Take care of yourself.
If the middle miles are tough for you, you're not alone. When that mental and physical fatigue starts to creep in, remind yourself what you're made up. Remind yourself of the time you ran 16x400 at 1:20. Remind yourself of the time you took 15 minutes off your half marathon PR. Remind yourself of the time you lifted weight heavier than ever before. In fact, remind yourself of the time you walked through fire in your life and came out stronger on the other side. If you can do those things, you can push your way though a measly few middle miles.
Don't forget to bring your gear that you'd like printed by 1/20.
We'll see you at the Civic Center/Y on Wednesday for the Rowland Tempo.
Happy running. Stay warm, and don't forget to share your photos of your snowy runs this weekend!
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Each week, we notice different things. We try to incorporate the questions we are receiving or the training issues we are noticing into our post(s) for the week. If there is something you'd like us to cover, let us know!