If you’ve ever read the reviews in a boating magazine (yes, I’ve wasted plenty of hours in my lifetime…), one thing you may have noticed is that although a boat has a top speed, what seems more important to the reviewers is its ‘cruising speed.’
The Oxford online dictionary defines Cruising Speed as “a speed for a particular vehicle, ship, or aircraft, usually somewhat below maximum, that is comfortable and economical.”
For a runner, ‘cruising speed’ is that pace at which you realize your body is doing something it was actually designed to do, and you feel (for the moment) like you could go on forever (though the objective mind knows that is not actually the case….).
Mid-pack runners are well served to find their own cruising speed, and use it as a baseline, consciously choosing when to run faster (that last gallop to the finish, or when someone you passed a half-mile back shows up in the corner of your eye and starts to creep ahead…) and when to run slower (that December-weekend long run in the snow and slush).
You’ll find your cruising speed by feel, but it helps to have a measurement and a way to compare from day to day. Since mid-pack runners generally aren’t doing laps on a track with a stopwatch, keeping track of total time and distance every time you run is generally the way to go, but since your pace varies from beginning to end, it will be pretty inexact. For those ready to make a larger investment, a GPS watch that tells your pace at any given time is great, but whatever way you measure your cruising speed, it’s really the feeling that matters.