Last week, with the first glimmers of spring appearing as warm sunny days, I slowly acclimated my body to outdoor running. I enjoyed the scenery as I ran my easy miles, explored the trails and landmarks, and even took some pictures along the way. But I knew something was missing, something was too soft. My half marathon was coming up in less than a month and I was starting to feel like I needed to prove myself. I had put in all this work and I wasn't about to have a mediocre race. Today then, I had decided would be a true speed work day. Sure I had been doing speed work on the treadmill all winter, a compilation of tempo and intervals. But when you're outside on the road, the rules change. Your body does all the work, not the machine. True speed work hurts. It is a grueling, painful torture of a workout that left you feeling like you would die on the spot. But once that feeling passed you felt like God. I needed to do four miles - So I decided on 4 x 800's. Half mile repeats.
So I packed up my booty shorts hoping they would give me the extra something I needed, and went on with my day. All day long all I could think about was the run. When the sun never showed it's face I was nervous it would be cold and I would be miserable. When I realized I had forgotten my sports watch at Boyfriend's apartment I thought my chance at speed work was shot until we made a plan for me to pick it up. When I had picked up my watch and was mere minutes away from starting my run I thought I had forgotten my inhaler on the kitchen table. I literally pounded my fist with outrage onto the steering wheel. The one thing that I could not run without was my inhaler. But a second look into my purse showed it had been there all along and I took my required two puffs.
It was time. I stood outside my parked car, tucked the key into my shorts pocket and was on my way. Right away I congratulated myself on choosing the booty shorts. My stride unrestricted stride was easy as I did my warm up 1/2 mile. I was as excited as I was nervous as I approached the marker to begin my first repeat. The path was empty, the skies grey, and the air not warm, not cold with slight breeze. It was as if the stars had aligned to give me the perfect day for speed work. I crossed the 1/4 mile mark on the sidewalk and picked up the pace. I had no plan. I had no goal time. I figured I would pick a pace that fast enough to feel challenging but one I could maintain over the entire half mile. I wouldn't know what the numbers were until I was done. In fact it had been so long since I had run repeats I forgot what a decent time even was. I crossed the halfway mark and already wanted it to be over. Three quarters of the way I thought I was going to throw up. By the time I finished I was gasping for breath and surprised I had not thrown up. As I jogged my recovery quarter I checked my watch. I wasn't shocked or disappointed with the result, and I figured it would be pretty do-able to stick to that time give or take five seconds. So I went for another one. Right away I felt the pain building up in my stomach and my breathing was fast. My legs didn't hurt, they moved in such a fluid motion I imagined myself as a gazelle. Imagining things made the work so much easier and I pushed on, concentrating on nothing but the finish. I crossed the line, hit the split button on my watch and glanced down at the tiny screen. Five seconds faster than my first time? I was feeling a little bit proud as I trotted through another recovery. I wondered if it had been a fluke, if I had burnt myself out and would I be able to make it happen again. The only way to find out was to keep on going and by this point I was at the halfway point for my whole run. I turned around and immediately headed into my third repeat. I felt a change, like something inside me had clicked on and my body knew how to run for real. This time I didn't get winded right away and gave an extra hard push to the end. Looked at my watch, another 8 seconds fast. This was crazy. What was happening to my body? Each repeat felt like coming farther out of a coma, my body falling into the rhythm of a faster pace. One more left. I had watched my time get faster and faster and this would be no exception. I started giving myself a pep talk through my last recovery.
"Just do this, just run, and push, and go through to the end. When it's over then you can rest but not until you are done. Just go, steady and strong, just go" I start. I push. And then with a wash of relief the pain is over. I am gasping for breath, practically running in place as I check my watch. 6 seconds faster. 19 seconds faster than my first.
After so much time doubting my abilities, today has filled me with hope and excitement. I have roughly three weeks until my race and now, for the first time I believe I can run with a good time. I believe again that I can start setting goals for myself and achieve them. I believe again, in myself.
1/2 mile interval times
1st repeat - 3:59
2nd repeat - 3:54
3rd repeat - 3:46
4th repeat - 3:40