Distance running is about maintaining a relatively high level of effort over a long time, and that takes concentration and motivation. In the middle of the pack, we can work off other runners to make it both less difficult and more fun, by choosing a ‘rabbit.’
Once the initial warm-up is over, and you’ve settled into goal pace (which you’ll know from your GPS, stopwatch, or level of effort), pay attention to the other runners around you, noting who’s struggling to maintain that pace or dropping away, and who’s breezing off into the distance. Keep your eyes peeled for a runner who passes you with confidence, but pulls way only gradually, and when that happens, challenge yourself to match their pace and keep a consistent distance instead of letting him or her disappear ahead.
You’ll know pretty soon if you’ve chosen well – if you quickly start feeling winded, let ‘em go, settle back, and see who else comes along. But if find you can keep up with just a bit more effort than you had been giving before, then you’ve chosen right. Keep on his or her heels for a few minutes – or a few miles – and that rabbit may provide the focus you need to push yourself to do your best.
The goal is not to finish the run in a dead-heat competition – most times your paces will diverge long before that, but chasing rabbits every now and then can make any distance seem shorter – and way more fun. It just may make the difference between a ho-hum run and one that truly satisfies.
Rabbits – one more reason the mid-pack view is nothing to sniff at!