Why Your Slowest Mile is Always the Same

Myrtle Cook of Canada (left) winning a preliminary heat in the women's 100 metres race at the VIIIth Summer Olympic Games / Myrtle Cook (à gauche), du Canada, remportant une éliminatoire pour l'épreuve du 100 mètres femmes, aux VIIIe Jeux Olympiques d'été

Yesterday I wrote, rather facetiously, that the second to last mile/km usually feels like the the longest of them all. It turns out that isn’t just something we all feel is true; it is true.

Israel Halperin at Memorial University in Newfoundland conducted a study which asked volunteers to exert the maximum amount of effort possible contracting their arms. Sometimes, they were told to do this for a predetermined number of reps, and other times they were not told how many they would be doing until the last rep. In each and every case, the effort would decrease with each rep until the last one. The last rep would either equate in effort to the first, or exceed it.

So what does this mean for us, as runners? It means that our bodies are programmed to reserve energy for a final effort, even when we are told to exert “all-out” effort prior to that. In other words, our brains are hard-wired to perform that last mile or km faster and with our reserve energy, even if we don’t plan on keeping reserve energy. We just can’t help it.

The take away is if you are trying to run even splits – each km or mile at the same pace through out – focus your mental game on maintaining your pace in the last few kms or miles of your run.

(Photo Credit: BiblioArchives)