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Keeping pace is the key to running any distance

This past weekend marked the 31st annual Jingle Bell Jog put on by the Phoebe Foundation. I was pleasantly surprised to see that out of the field, World Camp made up 39 participates.

Does this mean that we have 39 runners in our group? Of course not! As a matter of fact, the majority of our fitness community has never run more than 800 meters at any given time. This includes the 10 individuals who received medals for placing in their particular age group.

Now, I'm not trying to not give you the impression that this column is going to be something written in a boast of how great of athletes the people I train are or what a great running coach I am. As a matter of fact, I hate to run! I just enjoy pushing my body to do things it is uncomfortable with and, believe me, getting out in the 40-degree temperature and running 6.2 miles is no walk in the park.

Believe it or not, running a races such as a 5k, 10k, 15k or even your half and full marathon should have a game plan, and even the slightest mistake can put you out of the running for a winning time. Many have the misconception that one is just running as fast as they can for the distance designed. This, however, is far from reality.

The first mistake is likely the most damaging to your time. The almost euphoric sense of heightened energy and adrenalin will inevitably make you start out of the gate like a dog chasing a squirrel.

The problem is that starting too fast can lead to a slower pace later in the race. It's such an obvious point that it's often overlooked. That brings me to those high-school kids standing next to you. They're about to learn pacing the hard way, or else they are really just that good. If you're patient, you'll likely see the first group later as you pass them. So let them go.

The next mistake is made mostly by the more experienced runners -- those who are tracking their pace time by the mile markers and a stopwatch or a guy standing in the course a mile out and yelling a time at you.

Let's say hypothetically you look to run an eight-minute mile pace, one that you can comfortably handle for the duration of the race. At the first mile marker you look down at your watch or the guy on the curb shouts out, "7:30."

Now, you are thinking that you are running at a pace too fast and you will most likely slow down a bit, in fear or gassing out early. The truth is that you may not be running as fast a pace as you think.

What's to say that you didn't start out just a bit too hot out of the gate or that the mile markers are even 10 seconds or so off? Plenty of races are measured precisely and accurately, but not all of them. You should really bet that the race organizers sent out a volunteer and set the markers by a car's odometer. Once you actually settle into a pace, you should trust your body's feeling for the desired pace rather that someone with a stopwatch.

Running technique plays a huge part as well. The proper technique will not only allow you to keep a better pace during the race but be more efficient in order to have plenty of energy left to sprint out the last leg. I would suggest looking up the "POSE" running method on your favorite search engine. This is the technique that I teach and have found very useful for efficient running and injury prevention.

Again, I would like to say great job to all that participated in the Jingle Bell Jog this year and thanks to Phoebe for putting in on. Anytime a group of people can get together and support a great cause like the Children's Miracle Network, it is a worthwhile event!

Feel free to e-mail me any of your fitness related questions and as always, thanks for reading The Herald!

E-mail fitness columnist Kris Morrill, certified personal trainer and owner of World Camp Fitness in Albany, at kris@worldcampfitnesstraining.com.