Life Lessons

Pacing

I’ve been told by great runners that pacing is the key to a great race.

But pacing is also really hard to do!

I presume that this is why so many races offer ‘pace-bunnies’ – people who commit to doing the discipline of running at exactly a 6:00 km, for example, so that all that you as the runner have to do is keep in time.

The reason pacing is so important is that you start the race with lots of energy – you’re pumped up and excited! Maybe you’ve been tappering for a few days and you’re loaded up on carbs. Either way, you feel like you could conquer the world! So you go out … fast. But energy is sort of like your paycheque. If you blow it all in the first day, there’s not much left for the rest of the week!

And pacing is also something we in the disability world have to think about – only for me it isn’t just a thing to think about on days when I’m doing a big race. I have to think about it every day!

If I get up in the morning, and my room’s a mess and I have a little bit of energy, I still have to say, ‘nope … not going to do that … that would take too much energy’.

If I have a hankering for something complicated for lunch like a grilled cheese sandwich and there’s no one here to make it for me, or if my kids want to wander through the mall for hours at a time (an experience I used to thoroughly enjoy), or if my friend messages me at 7:00 pm and says, ‘hey, do you want to catch a movie?’ the answer almost always has to be ‘nope … not going to do that … that would take too much energy’. Because the only alternative is that I crash – and crash hard – later on.

When you live a life constrained by limited energy levels, everything you do has to be paced out carefully. There can be no surprises, and there has to be lots of opportunity to say, ‘I wanted to, but my energy’s too low, so I can’t.’

Yes, they have therapists to teach this stuff, but I’ll be honest, it’s like pacing when you run: you have to dial it back until you feel like you are going immensely slower than you could, and then you have to hold that pace! You have to be willing to surrender your need to prove yourself, to keep up with your loved ones, to score points or achieve things and instead learn simply to run your own race.

Otherwise you might find yourself joining me on the couch for some much needed rest.