I've got one major goal at this morning's trial run of the Goodyear 10k. Okay, maybe more than one, but the one mostly on my mind is remembering to hold back on that first mile.

When we did the trial run of the 8k back in June, my adrenaline got the best of me. I was so excited to be running my first actual race course (if not an actual race) and being surrounded by so many inspiring people, I went all out that first mile, beating my regular training pace by a couple of minutes. I couldn't help it. I felt like I was caught in a wake, and truth be told, it didn't feel bad.

But a couple more miles into the race I felt my energy slip out of me like a fuel tank with a leak. I walked at least the last mile and was miserable.

The real problem, though, was I couldn't forget how I felt at the finish, and I worried about it daily for the next two weeks. I began to wonder if a 5-mile run was out of my reach, and that cut deeply because I really thought I was ready.

Then I did it again on race day. I didn't mean to, I just couldn't help it. The music was blaring, my blood was pumping. I stayed well ahead of my pacer for three miles. But no surprise, he finally passed me up. Mentally, I felt myself deflate. I was physically unable to catch him, having spent my energy too early.

Today, I'm going slow that first mile, fall into a steady, confident pace for the middle, then try to pick up some speed and come in strong for the last mile. That's a strategy advocated by several articles I read that agreed the most common mistake runners make is in that first mile.

To train yourself to avoid that mistake, some experts say to practice a "negative split" once a week to get in the habit. That means taking your training distance, cutting it in half, and making sure the second half is faster than the first half.

"The reason this works is because it can take your body several miles to get warmed up. After that, your muscles are charged, your joints lubricated, and mood-boosting endorphins flood your system. You'll find yourself running faster without feeling any more effort," according to an article in Runner's World.

Here's the entire story, with a little more guidance how to train this way: http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/learn-how-to-run-negative-splits

I've been playing around with that notion a bit. Unlike my first 12 weeks of running, when I could never pour on speed at the end, I'm now successful picking up my pace late in a training run.

Even if this strategy doesn't lead to a big increase in my pace overall, it has improved my mental game quite a bit. Instead of ending runs feeling discouraged because the last half was brutal, I find myself finishing in a better mood and feeling more confident.

Now if I can only apply it on race day!

- Paula