mundane adventures in running
I just finished an amazing run. I felt strong, found my rhythm pretty much immediately, and had I not waited for traffic on the South Circular for two minutes, it would have been a half marathon-ish pb.
I wasn’t expecting it. My running’s hit a bit of a plateau recently. As I’ve complained before I am victim of self created first world problems: as a response to evicting myself from my flat, I’ve overindulged and under exercised.
It hit me a couple of days ago that if I stand a chance of completing the rapidly approaching London to Brighton race that I’ve almost committed to running on 5th September, I needed to get out of a rut.
Currently, my long runs are about 25km. Increasingly, that drops to 20km or thereabouts when i’m short of time. It’s hard to justify an extra half an hour on the road when I’m distracted and need to do other things. I find when I try to go further, it feels incredibly difficult and body-destroying. I’m not getting enough experience of these longer distances, so (my explanation) I’m not learning to run when i’m suffering muscle fatigue.
I had been following John L Parker Jr.’s heart rate training regime in a half arsed sort of way. He basically prescribes running one day on, one off, doing tempo runs, intervals and long runs on on days, and shorter recovery runs (5-10km at a prescribed heart rate). This has been great for shorter distances, my 5k times are getting faster, and I feel stronger and stronger. The problem is, I think I’ve been getting too much rest. Given that I don’t run every day, and will often sub a recovery run for a swim and brisk walk or longish cycle, I’m not really getting used to running with knackered, knotted, depleted legs.
It sounds masochistic, but I need to learn more about what my body goes through when it’s exhausted, so that I don’t just hit the 30k mark and feel like I’m about to collapse.
So, given the my daily time constraints right now, given that I don’t have long to up my mileage so I can contemplate running two and a bit marathons back to back, I’ve decided to turn it up a notch. I’ve decided to introduce back to back hard days to help experience muscle fatigue. The plan is to do a long run or intervals on the first day, a long run on the second, and then rest or very gentle recovery run on the third.
Today was the first long run. I did hill reps in Brockwell park yesterday. The reps probably lasted about 45 minutes, with a long warm up and warm down. I finished pretty tired but not completely useless, warmed down well and felt good.
This afternoon I headed out to Tooting common. I expected to run a slow, 6km per minute pace. After getting frustrated with my running playlist (it needs updates, recommendations welcome) I took my headphones off and decided to enjoy the ambience of South London (sirens, whining motorbikes, squawking parakeets). Like I say, I found my rhythm almost immediately. By the time I hit Herne Hill I was flying. I felt unstoppable. My legs ached in a satisfying, healthy way. My breathing and pace were even, and settled into a synchronisation together. I felt incredibly in the moment and so alive. I could still hear my Run-Keeper updates playing on the phone (the worst kind of urban exhibitionist, but in fairness it was set to update every 10 minutes, and I don’t think anyone else heard it). It wasn’t a distraction, just an occasional reminder that I was on track and running sub 5 minutes per km. So, yup: amazing run.
Detes here, if you’re interested.