Thursday, March 20, 2008

I'm a Night Runner Yes I Am*

About 11 years ago I ran cross country and track in college. I was a decent runner, always placing somewhere between the faster and slower girls.

I haven’t run consistently since due to lack of motivation and lack of time. Back in college, we always had our workouts from 1-3 pm, sometimes in the middle of a blisteringly hot day. I always looked forward to practice because there was always someone my level to run with, depending on whether I was having a good day or bad day. There was always someone keeping pace with you and sometimes you even got to chat and get to know your teammates. It was like a sisterhood of runners.

Because of this I’ve been apprehensive about starting to run again. Running is very much an individual sport, and it’s very common for people to talk themselves out of a workout, or even a race. It’s because running allows your thoughts to let loose and totally take over your head – at least that’s what happens to me. Sometimes the most inane songs pop into my head and I can’t stop it from replaying over and over again (like Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head – ugh!). At least when I had the sisterhood someone was with me all the time, helping me get the most out of my workout by having something to focus on instead of the random stuff rattling around my head.

I’ve been running consistently for the past three weeks, always after work, and have been surprised to find that it’s not that bad. I’ve been afraid of starting up again because I wouldn’t have anyone to keep pace with me, which is different from having someone run with me. My husband runs with me but I feel bad sometimes because I’m rolling along at a snail’s pace, which is equivalent to him taking a brisk walk. Bless his heart, he mostly stays on pace with me but I hate feeling like he’s missing out on getting a good workout himself. I feel as if he’s now hanging with the back of the pack instead of surging forward and running with the better guys. His presence helps a lot.

Last night we had our first “hard” workout. Up to now, we have been running three miles at 10-minute pace during the week with longer runs during the weekend. Since we couldn’t find an open track at 9 pm (yeah, kinda late), we found this one mile stretch on Topanga Canyon where we could do some interval training. Interval running means starting at a comfortable pace then running faster (for a minute or for a lap) then settling back to a comfortable pace – slow quick slow. This goes on continuously (depending on time or distance), and running at the comfortable pace is meant to be the rest period. Runners also call this fartlekking (I swear I am not making that term up), and it’s meant to get your heart rate pumping and start acclimating your body to run faster. It also helps build your endurance base, which is helpful when you want to run longer distances. Anyway, last night hurt – as in hurt so good. For the first time in a long time my body felt stronger (wrecked but stronger) compared to the person who started running three weeks ago. I didn’t shuffle (much) and I didn’t sound like I was on the brink of collapse. Now that’s what I call progress.

* The song playing in my head last night was Punkrocker by Teddybears.

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