In the Wild Kingdom it is the fast, muscular predator that mostly draws attention. Pace though is more difficult to appreciate. For some animals, pacing is innate. For humans, however, this is not the case. We have to concentrate and develop a sense for the power of pacing, usually longer than most people can focus on a single task.
Speed looks, at times, as a constant: a given miles per hour, meters per second. The perception for most is that pure speed gets us ahead in a race, at work, on the road. In order to be faster we have to get in more miles/meters into an hour or second, get more productivity out of each minute, simply speed up. But…we can only maintain that for awhile until the speed exceeds the bodies ability to keep up. When we hit that point, we move slower, yet expend more effort, resulting in a drop in productivity. Speed looks sexy but at the end of the day it accomplishes less if it cannot be maintained over time.
We all started our first endurance event, whether it be a triathlon, cycling road race or marathon, with the intention of going as fast as possible. Since we did not possess any previous experience to reference regarding a “Race Pace”, we hit the start line full of energy and ambition and went out much, much too fast. Even if we “practiced” pacing during our training, we forgot all about it and believed that we could magically set unrealistic results. For some, this situation is not limited to their first endurance event, or even limited to a sporting event at all.
Pace focuses on the steadiness of how long we can maintain a given effort over a length of a course. We are the ones in control of where we want to ultimately be. Most people experience the phenomenon of learning to pace themselves through out their entire life, not just in sport. Too often we might find ourselves in a situation, it doesn’t matter if it is in a race, on a personal level or in the business world, focusing purely on speed will typically put us ahead early, but not necessarily indefinitely. Just think of the tortoise and the hare story from childhood.
Speed often places blinders on and forces us to concentrate on a particular moment and ignore the bigger picture. Pacing, on the other hand, allows us to take control of the speed and adjust it to maximize efficiency over time, making it more likely that we complete our goals. That is not the end though. Our collective experiences throughout our lifetime permits us to grow and improve continually, but it takes conscious thought and consistent dedication to perfect. Consistency is essential to achieve this transformation. Steady efforts over days, months, years will pay off. Although not as sexy as pure speed, mastering the art of pacing lets us achieve far greater results.