Friday, March 29, 2013

The First Mile....The Hardest Mile!

I feel amazing after the run the 30K last Sunday!  In the past, if I had run a trail run with that much down hill I would finally start to get my walking legs a couple of days after the run and wouldn't begin with slow running after 5 days.  I haven't had any problems this time around, with me being able to do my speedy Embarcadero run at 9:16 minute miles.  What is even more incredible about yesterday's run was that my pace for the final 3/5 of the run was all around 8:45.  

But I will have to say, that first mile-and-a-half was a bear.  There was a little bit of residual tiredness.  And mentally, knowing that I am going to be running a trail half marathon on Saturday, I could easily rationalize cutting my run short.  However, there is something I have come to learn about the first mile to two miles:  if it is not race day, the first two miles are just a warm-up.  

It makes since, on race day you are full of adrenaline and and your legs feel great.  However, you run the major risk of going out too fast and burning out too soon.  On training days, you don't have the adrenaline coursing through your veins, and at times it is just shear will power to get out the door.  Especially if you are running something flat and not challenging like the Embarcadero.

In fact, if you Google "why the first mile is always the hardest,"  you will find tons of links.  Some of the tips are:

I remember the training for our first few marathons, my wife and I would run a local paved trail, the Ironhorse, to get our long miles in.  Trail choice was dictated to being able to push one of our daughters and our son in the double jogging stroller while our other daughter would ride her bike.  It would make for interesting 22 mile runs to say the least.  But again, with the exception of an unnoticeable uphill grade for the first half of the run, it was flat.  We never did hill training in the truest since of what you are supposed to do.  And it showed in our San Francisco Marathon times.  

While we were training for these marathons, we would still face the issue of the first mile or two on our shorter runs when we were training for those marathons.  In fact, one of our favorite trails was a loop around the Lafayette Reservoir.  This is a 2.8 mile loop with some hills.  However, we found that the first loop was always the hardest, and we would hit our stride on the second or third loops.

But going back to the first mile.  The first mile will always be your hardest mile.  I remember someone I used to work with ask me about running.  He had witnessed my weight-loss as well as our entry into marathon racing.  He said he ran a 1.5 every other day but felt winded by the time he was done.  Now mind you he was a 4 pack a day smoker.  But I started to see a reoccurring theme with other runners.  Many runners stop right as I knew I was done warming up.

I know a lot of this goes back to conditioning.   But as you increase your mileage, for me, one constant is that if I can overcome the first mile or two in my training I am in it for the long haul.  In fact, there is a lot of times that I am feeling my best at mile 10, 15, or 20.  And I do not feel, even if I am real speedy, any run over 3 miles as a good training run.

So I am really confident that training is on target now.  My target for the half tomorrow, as I stated in the previous post, is to be under 2:30,  and to really shoot for under 2:20.  The Lagoon Valley Half Marathon is listed as one of Brazen's tough half marathons with over 2K feet of elevation.  So if I meet my targets I will be extreamly happy.  

At the end of it all, the first mile is always going to be the hardest, learn to accept it and you will be fine!  Now, I just need to tackle the first mile!


  1. 2:28 for Lagoon Valley! Nicely done - congrats!

    That first mile or so is a killer for me. I've gotten used to fighting through it and am always a bit surprised when later on all the issues that were making me want to stop were gone. Nice to hear that it's not just me!

  2. Thanks Alan! I really felt it yesterday with the majority of the folks passing me in the first two flat miles. Once I was warmed up though, the uphill and downhill felt great.

  3. It's really tough to hold your pace when others are going out so fast - but very wise. (When you two do Way Too Cool you'll see how hard it can really be!) I don't think going out fast will be too much of a problem at Diablo - I think you start some climbing pretty quickly.


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