1) Eat a big meal, then run. We’ll start with a truly ridiculous one. Eat a large meal, and then a half hour later at most, head out the door for a run. Oh, you feel like you’re going to hurl? Slow yourself down before you’re bent over the curb. I tried this one by accident – as I’m enjoying salmon and sauteed kale in butter over rice I realized I hadn’t gotten my distance for the week, and I didn’t want to pay-up for it (see #2). I grabbed my shoes and took off, only to feel that most familiar gastro-unpleasantness. I slowed the pace a bit, and still struggled. I slowed again, and found I could manage – it wasn’t pleasant, but it slowed me down, and familiarized my body with that pace. I’ve tried this several other times with similar results. This method shouldn’t be the first you try, but if all else fails, it works.
2) Make a bet against yourself. Many studies have shown that we’re more likely to follow through if there’s a threat of losing our money, rather than if there’s an incentive of that same value. So the idea is, make a monetary bet against yourself, with housemates, family, or friends. Toss a reasonable but unsettling amount of money in a jar in plain sight ($20? $100?), and let your friend / family member know that if you don’t complete your long run during the week (or if you don’t hit a certain number of miles in the week), the money is theirs. Figure out the details on your own, but that jar in plain site is fantastic motivation and a constant reminder.
3) Run with a friend, and catch up! Haven’t seen Katie in almost a year but hear that she’s been cranking out miles? Give her a call and set up a catch-up run. If you can hold a long conversation, you’re keeping the pace in the right place.
4) Run with a slower friend. Sure, on initial glance, this seems somewhat mean or insulting. But if you offer to go running with someone who is slower, they’ll tend to come right out with a “no no no, I wouldn’t want to hold you up”. Then it’s simply a matter of explaining that you’re looking to figure out your pace, in a way that’s minimally insulting, but honest. Potentially awkward, but has been effective for me many times, and can be a nice way to share an activity you love with someone who might be generally less inclined to try it. It’s not a way to get long runs in, but helps gain comfort with a slower speed.
5) Learn a language. I’m a big advocate of no-headphone running, as I think it’s important to focus for safety, for form, and for the love of the trail – mindfulness or consciousness are skills many of us lack in this notification era. But, there’s also plenty of evidence supporting music as an aid for running motivation and assisting with pace. Similarly, I’ve played with the idea of learning a language while running. Google or iTunes can provide you with plenty of repetition-style lessons – hear the phrase in English, hear the phrase in Spanish (or your choice), and then repeat it out loud. It’s not the most effective learning tool for everyone, but it could be a great way to dual-purpose your time. Reminder, to my earlier point: be safe and stay mindful – it’s hard to hear much else with headphones in.
6) Run somewhere with less people around. We’re all a little vain (or, a lot). When you’re running past that cute girl or guy, you undoubtedly pick up the pace, straighten your back, and pull back your shoulders…and hope you don’t fall on your face. I think this probably happens more often that we think, and around anyone – just the fact of having people around makes us somewhat self-conscious. So ditch the downtown route, avoid the busy bayshore path, and blaze your own trail!
7) Find comfort. Two of these above have addressed this idea specifically: could you eat a meal and keep your stomach settled; or, could you hold a conversation without gasping for breath. But more generally, is your body comfortable? Could you keep up this pace for the longest run you’ve ever done? How about a few miles more than that? Take a few deeper, slower breaths. Feel out your form. Find comfort.
Running fast is fun, no doubt about it. But for long term health, which translates to long term fun, most of your runs each week should be slow and comfortable. Run happy.