I still hesitate to call myself a runner...odd isn't it? I've no idea what I'm waiting for. Maybe it's because I'm slow? But then again, I am happy for others to be slow, and yet still be runners.
I did my first club run of the year on Wednesday. As I headed out of the door I know I was less than keen on having done a day at work, then hitting the dark chilly evening outside. I tried to find some enthusiasm on the 10 min walk to the leisure centre, but I'd obviously left it somewhere daft and couldn't find it. The group, who I barely know as I've only been out with them twice previously, were about ready to leave. I tried to prepare myself mentally for whatever route they chose at the time. "Just 4 miles tonight as it's our first one back," the group leader said. That sounded good to me.
We set off at an easy pace, through an underpass, up a short but steep hill, and onto a housing estate where I would usually go if I was on my own. We gathered on a street corner at the bottom of a hill. There's just no escaping the hills around here, but the leader had picked a steep one. "We're gonna do some hill repeats. Run up to the first lamppost, then back down. Back up, past the first lamppost to the second one, then back down. Back up past the first and second lampposts to the top, then back down. We're gonna do that twice." Hill repeats? I've never done those before. Isn't it enough running up it once? We were to try and do each repeat faster than the last. I gave it a go, but probably didn't give it enough of a go. Having not done it before I didn't want to try too hard only to find I couldn't complete the task or didn't have enough left in the tank to continue with the run afterwards. To my surprise I found I almost liked it. It's hill work, without going too far from home (I like to stay close to home after a day at work, especially if it's dark). It's also progressive with time for recovery when going back down, whereas one big hill is just miles of climbing. Also the exercise can be as long or short as you want. It was a new experience for me, and a good one. I decided I will use it when out on my own on my other weekday run.
We ran a while, then stopped, gathered and were taken through a few stretches. I have never stopped to do stretches on a run before. Is that common? I rarely see runners out doing stretches. But I threw myself into it, and it felt good.
Off we went again, running through the estate until we came to a dead end road. We gathered on another corner. "This time we're going to jog to the first lamppost, sprint to the next, jog to the next, sprint to the next... at about 70%-80% effort. There's 7 or 8 lampposts down here, so that should be plenty." I'd tried fartleks before using a watch to time minutes, I'd tried mentally counting, pacing, using visual landmarks (but I never managed to get the evenly spaced)...I knew I couldn't do it. I turned to the lady next to me and said, "This should be interesting. I've only got 2 speeds: go and stop." I really didn't have much hope for the activity. But, I'm always willing to try again, so off I trotted to the first lamppost. I looked up at the next one, aimed and dug deep, running nearly as fast as I could to keep going 'til I got there, then slowed right down to a jog. The next time my sprint was slower, but still at almost the maximum I could sustain to the next lamppost. I repeated this all the way up the road as I'd been instructed. I couldn't believe I'd done it! I had another speed lurking in the depths, one I'd never found before. The only difference to what I'd tried before was using the lampposts as a visual cue. Maybe it helped that they weren't too far apart and evenly spaced, but being able to see where I was running to really helped. I'll definitely be doing that again. This one speed 'runner' just found another gear and was oh, so happy about it! 😀
On my way home I reflected on how reluctant I'd been to leave the house in the first place, and what I'd have missed out on if I hadn't. A challenging and satisfying evening...and I'd done 4.8 miles almost without noticing. 😊