I think I may have been coddling myself when it comes to running. See, I read somewhere that it’s important to do some warm up laps and start nice and easy and slow, so I was doing that. I would start out at a pace that got me an eleventh of a mile in about 90 seconds. This pace would get me a mile in about 16 and a half minutes if I stuck with it that long, but I normally don’t. I speed up, generally to the leisurely pace of a 12 minute mile, and I’ll sometimes push in the last set of eleven laps to get under 11 minutes.
I’ve wanted to get faster. The other day at a health fair, I spoke to a personal trainer about how to get faster, and he emphasized proper bio-mechanics as the key to speed, explaining how his girlfriend, who, he emphasized, had never run before, went from a 32 minute 5K to a 24 minute 5K just by working on bio-mechanics. I was skeptical, and never did ask if she had been otherwise athletic, but I suspect she was. Still, I tried incorporating his tips. I dorsi-flexed my ankles and tried to lift my knees to push my body off instead of pulling it.
Nothing happened. (Okay, I did think for a while that I’d run a mile in closer to 9 minutes than 10, but then I figured out that I’d only counted ten laps instead of eleven for that time.)
I was still running in my sweet spot of 11 to 12 minute miles. I figured I would just need to take time to get used to the new way of moving, and the speed would come.
Last night, I worked on a paper until about 7pm and then headed to the gym. I didn’t know it was closing at 8pm until I was just getting ready to head upstairs to the track and an announcement came over the PA system to inform gym patrons that they would be closing in thirty minutes.
I hurried upstairs after that and had a choice to make. I could go at my normal pace and probably finish before the gym closed, if only just barely, or I could go for it and try to get 11 minute miles and be done in 22 minutes.
I went for it.
My warm up lap was faster than an eleven minute mile pace, and I felt good. I felt like I was flying on the track, not so much pounding my steps as bouncing. I wasn’t sure how I was doing it really, but I was, so I decided to go for a bigger goal and try to be done in a mere 20 minutes.
2 miles in 20 minutes isn’t great, I know. It’s a pace my brother-in-law would scoff at, a pace that would set no records and just barely make a qualifying time on a Navy fitness test (the one that requires 1.5 miles in 15 minutes, max). But it’s a faster pace than I have run since 2011, and I wanted it. I wanted that benchmark, to prove to myself that I could improve my time and run faster.
I wanted it, and I almost got it.
The first mile came in at 7 seconds over 10 minutes, and I was still feeling good. My body wasn’t protesting the extra speed, and my legs felt light.
About half a mile later, it started getting hard. I’d been breathing hard from the beginning, but as I pushed harder to get that final mile under 10 minutes, my lungs began to complain. When I push myself past where I’m comfortable aerobically, I tend to get a little scared. It hurts to keep trying to breathe to keep up with the demands of my muscles, and I have had a tendency to consider it a bad pain and quit. But if there’s one thing I learned from TurboKick, it’s that I can push myself harder than I think.
The last three laps felt like torture. I promised myself that I just had to keep pace, I didn’t have to go faster, just keep pace, keep going. I knew that once I stopped, starting would not be easy, so I held my fear and panic in check and forced my way to the last lap.
I like to pretend I’m ringing a bell as the last lap starts, my own personal bell lap. But I didn’t have the energy to spare this time as I tried to speed through the final lap as fast as I could, huffing and puffing and scared and amazed.
It’s typical for me to have a lot left in the tank, so to speak, on my last lap. Not this time. After pushing myself for 21 laps, I found it hard to go even a little bit faster on that last lap. I wanted it, I could almost taste it, but what I had left wasn’t enough.
I couldn’t quite get in under 20 minutes.
20 minutes and 5 seconds is my new time to beat.
And I wouldn’t have done it if the gym hadn’t been closing.
Maybe I should go there late more often.