Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Claire Kowalchik was right: speed training works.

Over the past few months, I have been incorporating speedwork into my weekly runs. During the summer, I started doing track workouts, and I hated them with a passion. I don't know why, but the thought of running 400s, 800s & 1200s around a high school track just made me... angry.

I've been running for over 10 years now, and have been successfully maintaining a plateau for about ... well, 9 of those years. I guess having come into running in my early 20s, I never really expected much of myself. I think that when I initially considered adding speedwork, a battle began in my head that went something like this:

MIND: "Hey, maybe if we work a little harder, we can get faster."
BODY: "Shut up. We're fine."
MIND: "Yeah, but, we spend all this time running and haven't improved much in like, ten years... just sayin'..."
BODY: "Shut UP. Running fast is difficult and makes me uncomfortable."
MIND: "Yeah, I guess. And I probably won't get faster anyway."
BODY: "Exactly. After this tedious shuffle is over, let's get ice cream, okay?"
MIND: "... yeah."

I guess any time we push ourselves outside our comfort zones, we get a little uncomfortable - physically and mentally. I guess it's just about getting over the mental hurdle.

Doing the interval training yielded positive results. I'm not sure if it was more mental than physical (or a little bit of both) but I ran my fastest 5K last month. After 10 years, I broke 26 minutes and finished in 25:21. That made me really happy. And so I have now committed to doing at least one speed session a week as I prepare for the Austin Marathon.

Yesterday I did 4 miles worth of intervals on the treadmill while watching Oprah. After a mile warmup, I did a "ladder" workout of: 400, 800, 1200, 800, 400, 400 - with 400 recoveries in between each push. I did these at 7.3 (8:13 pace) with a 1% incline. I did the last 400 at an 8:00 pace. I was sweating like a beast afterwards. Including the warmup, I'd run 5 miles in under 45 minutes. For me, this is huge.

My long run pace is improving. Last weekend I did 10 miles with an average pace of 9:12. Again, huge for me. I guess the moral of the story - and of this long-winded post - is that every now and then, it's okay to leave the comfort zone. And not just when it comes to running, but life in general. Common sense. Great advice. Sometimes easier said than done.

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