Pace in races vs pace in training

Something has been bugging me for a while, and thats the perception of effort at a given pace in training vs the same, or similar pace in races, and the differences, is it a purely physical thing, a mental thing, or a combination of the two.?

Last night I did a 5 mile speed session, this session called for 2 reps of 1 miles @ 9:10 pace, towards the end of the 2nd rep, I was REALLY struggling, it was really hard, and I felt like I was pushing almost as hard as I could.

Interestingly, mile 5 to mile 6 of my last 10k race was paced at almost exactly the same pace, however, I can't remember that mile feeling anywhere near as tough as the mile last night.

Why is that?


  • It's a really good question.  It's always puzzled me too, but I've just regarded it as 'race day magic'.

    Surely there must be some clever folks who've done studies into the phenomenon?

  • Lovely_lovely_gorgeous wrote (see)
    Race buzz
    Is that really all it is?, boy if thats the case, then the mind is REALLY powerfull at overcoming physical barriers.
  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭

    I get the same. On a good day I'll run 7:30-7:40-ish miling in a 10K but on training runs I struggle to achieve that over a shorter distance. There are days when I struggle to complete 13 miles at any pace, yet at most half maras I'll happily trot around at 8:20-ish to the mile or a bit quicker.

    I can only assume that it is the presence of others around me. I don't "race" as such and am not a competitive type but maybe the endless succession of folk to chase down and overhaul spurs me on without me knowing it.

  • I think the mind can trigger certain physiological changes - at least temporarily.

    But what triggers the mind?  What aspect of the race gets us going?  Is it the size of the field, or maybe how much we've been anticipating it?

  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭
    Or that picturesque opposite-sex rump just ahead ...
  • You too, eh Muttley image

    Edit:  proof positive of the mind's ability to cause 'certain physiological changes' - even if that wasn't quite what I originally meant!

  • I reckon it's also the fact that it is a change of scene.  I am sure I get "running fatigue" from going on the same ish, routes quite often, and I bored, and for me, that = slow.....on race day it's new and exciting.

    Also...I think there is probably something in the taper before the race, where as normally you don't have that.  Probably a mixture of things!

  • So it could be a purely adrenal thing?, on a sub-concuois level the mind tells the body its in a race, regardless of your competitiveness, and provides the body with whats needed to perform at a higher threshold?.

    Its a shame we can't tap into this during training.

  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭
    On the other hand, maybe you shouldn't go that fast in training. Races or events by their nature entail more effort than usual. If you maintained that level all the time you'd be on for injury.
  • Absolutely.  It feels easy when you're racing, but boy do you feel it later...
  • would not be as special would it?
  • Fair points, I am still suprised at how the mind can make the body feel pace in race much easier and maintainable than the same pace in training.

    Powerfull thing the mind.

  • 1 word: adrenaline.

    Powerful chemical, that.

    Plus all the other stuff about competing with others, change of scenery, PMA, etc.

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