This week’s running – 21st to 27th of July

Andy Yu hits the running track

Teaching an old dog new tricks!

This week was all about a new experience and racing hard.

First ever track session

Like many runners out there, I do almost all of my running exclusively outdoors on the pavement. Also like many runners, I had never set foot on a running track before – until Tuesday that is. The track is a rather intimidating place, what with its defined lanes, distance markings and brick coloured surface; a place for the pros to race and win gold and surely not a place for us mere mortals?

Having an afternoon off from work to run a few errands, I had plenty of time to think about the session ahead of Sunday’s Magor Marsh 10k. I didn’t want to go absolutely bananas but didn’t want to miss a mile or 800m rep sesh, so logic dictated that I combined the two to become 2x 1 mile reps and 2x 800m reps – best of both worlds and the 800m reps after mile reps would teach my body to run fast whilst tired.

But where, oh where would I run the sesh? I sadly never had an opportunity to run at the Birmingham Uni track before it was torn apart. I recalled that Mike from Kings Heath Running Club had previously run on the track at Fox Hollies Leisure Centre, which wasn’t too hard to get to from the Jewellery Quarter. Phoning ahead, the staff confirmed that nobody had reserved the track and I was free to use it until 10pm – not bad for £3.20.

Dave had warned me beforehand to ease myself on to the track to avoid injury due to unfamiliarity with the surface. Completing my warm-up mile on there, he was definitely right about it feeling a little alien. There was a certain amount of give on there that reminded me of a nicely paved tarmac road, but with a firmness and grip that was consistent and predictable throughout.

I programmed up my Garmin with the following so I could concentrate on just running instead of pressing buttons:

1x mile @ 6:25/mile

3:00 mins rest

1x mile @ 6:25/mile

3:00 mins rest

1x 800m @6:05/mile

1:30 mins rest

1x 800m @6:05/mile

Launching into the first rep, the target pace was spot on even if a pesky headwind on the back straight hit me on all four laps. The rep felt less intense than running it at the reservoir – possibly because I could simply concentrate on the task at hand without fear of turning my ankle in on some loose stones, or knocking dog walkers over etc. Or possibly because I could see the finish line at all times and knew exactly how much of each rep there was left to run. The second mile rep felt just as good as the first – a great introduction to a track workout.

Moving on to the 800m reps, I set off at 6:05/mile but I quickly found my pace escalating according to my Garmin. Two laps later and during the rest I checked the pace out – holy shit, I ran a 2:55 800m rep at 5:50/mile pace! And I still felt pretty damn good too to boot. I went into the second rep at the same pace and came out the other side with an identical 800m rep, still feeling fine.

So, what gives? The mile reps had potentially warmed me up better than a normal 1 mile jog, or maybe the even and predictable surface of the track had given me more confidence to loosen the reins a little more than usual. Whatever the reason, I had a whale of a time on the track and am totally converted to its now less mysterious ways – can’t wait until the next opportunity to run on the tartan again!

Here’s the Garmin data for this track session.

Easy out and back to Edgbaston Reservoir

After Tuesday’s track session, I was in two minds about what to do on Thursday. Ultimately, I went with “Do less and do it easy”, concluding that I wouldn’t gain anything more from a longer or faster workout. So I ambled along to Edgbaston Reservoir for a single lap before returning home. The headwinds that hit me were pretty ferocious at 11-12mph so even Mother Nature has plans for me.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

I was going to be really disappointed come Sunday’s 10k race if I didn’t go sub-40 minutes, or at least post a new PB after all the tapering I had done. I traditionally run Parkrun the day before a 10k at around target race pace and whilst it appears to have no negative impact, I can’t prove that it had a positive effect either.

So, instead I chose to volunteer at Cannon Hill. Due to a bit of miscommunication, I ended up being a scanning area marshal instead of a scanner. Almost everybody that didn’t know I was tapering for a race the following day asked why I wasn’t running – thankfully nobody assumed I was injured!

Magor Marsh 10k

Click here to find out how I got on at the 2014 Magor Marsh 10k.

Time for the weekly dose from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Always be growing

To paraphrase Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross: A, B, G.

A, always. B, be. G, growing. Always… be growing.

Just be careful how you define growth.

The desire to do better, to improve, is natural. No one likes to feel complacent or bored or stuck in a rut. Especially when you’re a runner (doubly so when you’re a new runner) and “progress” can be measured so precisely and so regularly in the form of miles run, splits recorded, times clocked.

We can get into trouble, though, when we equate growth with a single superlative, such as faster. Not only is this counterproductive, it’s a surefire route to injury or burnout or both.

Runners plateau. It’s one of life’s sad inevitabilities that, sooner or later, you will run as fast, or as far, as you ever will. The good news: How you respond to this is entirely up to you. You could hang up your racing flats, retire from running, and regale your friends with tales of your running past. Or you could find new ways to grow.

Instead of pushing yourself to go faster, you could slow down a bit and try going farther. Or, if you’ve always focused on marathons, try shorter stuff. Or trail running. Or triathlons. Or aim to run, or race, in all 50 states. Or to run a marathon with perfectly even splits, no matter what your overall time.

Maybe your challenge is simply finding the motivation to get out the door on a particularly bad day.

One of the beautiful things about running is its flexibility. There’s plenty it can teach us and lots of ways it can challenge us – if we’re up for it.

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