Pace and running is such a mental game.

I’ve run off and on since around 2003-ish. I would run outside randomly or join a gym and hit the treadmill. It wasn’t until 2012 that I started getting seriously into running. I’m kind of a newbie here. When I started way back when I was around 12-minute miles. I entered a bunch of 5ks and shorter races and just ran three or four days a week, trying to increase distance and speed a bit.

Then I got the bug.

I wanted to run farther. I wanted to conquer the half marathon because 13.1 miles seemed super long to me. I found several training plans, picked one and followed it the best I could. I finished my first half in 2:31:50. And I was quite proud of myself! My ultimate goal was to finish at 2:30 and I was quite close!

When I train and actually run, my races and pace reflect that and stay close to the 10-10:30 pace level. When I’m not training? I’m in the 12s. My worst half marathon, with virtually no training, was 12:24. I am also a bit slower in December, even with training. I blame the cold air. I also struggle with March races because I do a bunch of races in December/January then I tend to take time off and struggle to get back in so then my March races suffer.

Sorry, I was analyzing my races since 2012 this morning! I can be a numbers nerd.

I am getting off track… so I started racing in 2012 and then in December 2016 and January 2017 I got sick. I had been training for my first marathon and cruising right along. I did my longest run on Christmas Eve. I was feeling strong and ready to run 26.2 and then my sinuses rebelled. I went through an entire box of kleenex in about two days. I took about a week off and tried to hop back into my taper. And around 2 miles/20 minutes I’d get dizzy. I assumed it was related to being sick, maybe inner ear troubles. I couldn’t get more than two miles in and had to drop out of the marathon.

I waited a bit, tried running again. Same thing. Waited a few months. Same issue. I figured my running career was over.

So I did not run much at all in 2017. Toward the end of the year, I was itching to run, so I started again. I could go a bit further but I’d still get dizzy. I ran one race, a turkey trot, in 2017. It looks like I’m really fast because it’s listed as a 5k but in reality the course was short. I did some more races in 2018, I just took my time and walked a lot.

At some point, I decided to read 80/20 by Matt Fitzgerald on heart rate training. I switched to heart rate training thinking my pace issue might be a heart rate or blood pressure issue. I had to start out super slow to hit close to the heart rate zones. I started at about a 16:30 pace, which is slower than I can walk! I have been slowly working on increasing my speed and am now hitting paces in the 13:30-14 minute miles after two months of heart rate training. I am getting there! Slowly, mile by mile, working my way back down to my desired 10-10: 30-minute miles.

In case you were wondering, I do not have any heart rate or blood pressure issues. I have vocal chord dysfunction.

So, I know what I have and I take medicine and do exercises for it. I’ve been doing this for about a month and haven’t had any issues. *knocks on wood* *crosses fingers* I will be starting marathon training officially on July 9th and I plan to redo my threshold test because I think I need to adjust my heart rate zones after two months. I am also going to start pushing myself. I know I have more in me. I just need to reach down inside and pull it out.

I have the potential and I have the drive. I just need to do it, as Nike would say.

I think the hardest thing with my current pace is the knowledge that I can be faster. I have been there before and I want to be there again. I am trying to be patient and appreciate the gains I am getting. I know I will never win a race. I am not even an age group placer. I am ok with that. I don’t need to win. I just want to be my best self. I want to be a better runner. I want to make new PRs. I want to improve. When I was at my “peak” before I was working towards 9:30-10-minute miles. I want to be there again.

It’s a mind fuck. But I am willing to put in the work. I am willing to run more. To race more. To focus on my strength and working to fix my weaknesses. I want to finish a marathon. I will finish a marathon and I will finish in 4:45. I am putting it out there and I am chasing it. I will catch it. And once I do? I will find a new challenge and crush that too. I have crushed every running goal so far, so why stop now??

What tips do you have for building speed or increasing cadence? Or form tips? I need to work on that too. I like to keep my head down.

And if you didn’t know I’ve been adding videos to my youtube channel. Here is one I threw together real quick on pace!


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.