Updated: Feb 7
Remember when you were a kid and got your first 10-speed bike? You maybe moved up from a 3-speed. Your new ride was likely a Schwinn, had swoopy racing handlebars and a really uncomfortable skinny seat. Regardless, the coolest thing is that it had 10 gears. You'd race around town, playing with the shifters and with experience you'd get pretty good at choosing the right gears automatically.
My run today was the "2nd Long Run" lasting 42 minutes. Coach Bennet of the Nike Run Club guided, and repeated familiar mantras like pace, level of effort (from 1 to 10), and body awareness. He'd been emphasizing these since day one and I'm beginning to find my own "gears."
The concept is simple. As a runner, let's say you have 10 available speeds, namely 1 (super easy) through 10 (as fast as you can go). The trick is knowing what gear you're in. On a bicycle, it's easy; you simply look at your sprockets or gear indicators and know. After you cycle for a while, you know by "feel" what gear you're in, without ever looking.
When running, one hopes to achieve that same "feel." While there are no sprockets or gear indicators, you begin to learn what a 1, 5, 7 or 10 feel like. You sense that a certain pace and level of effort equate to your own personal gear number. The goal is to know your current gear and switch up or down at will, on the fly.
Ultimately the benefit is subtle but critical. Knowing your "running gear" at any moment helps make your runs successful. The ability to apply a discrete level of effort allows you to adjust your pace to accommodate any running challenge.
Today marked my 10th run and I can confidently feel about 5 gears. Hopefully soon, I'll be trading in my old bike for a real 10-speed!