I’m something of a one-paced runner. Whilst some runs might be a bit quicker than others, I generally run at around-about the same sort of pace, and within each individual run, I run each mile at a very steady, consistent pace. Apparently, if you’re serious about getting faster, you need to do things like sprint intervals and hill training and stuff like that. Although I’ve been getting steadily faster over the last twelve months, I don’t really do any of that. I think my improvement is more down to starting to cycle to work and changing to a more “barefoot” style running shoe that has shifted me from being an energy sapping heel-striker to being much more of a mid-foot runner. It’s certainly more down to accident than design, anyway.
Yesterday, partly to break the routine but mostly because I missed the run on Monday and wanted a stamp for my loyalty card, I attended a running club interval training session. These are run by the guys who also organise one of the local Park Runs, and they’re a series of sessions designed to improve your best 5km time (if you’re not aware of the phenomenon, Park Runs are organised but completely free timed 5km runs that are held every Saturday all over the country. They’re a phenomenon. I still haven’t done one, mind…)
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was pretty good fun: we warmed up with a series of stretches and a short run around a huge circle of cones, and then proceeded to do a series of interval runs. 4 minutes at 10km pace then 4 minutes rest; repeat; 2.5 minutes at 1 mile pace then 2.5 minutes rest; repeat; 30 seconds at almost full pace; walk back, rest for 30 seconds; repeat.
I don’t know about you, but when I run intervals like this, time seems to slow down as I will the clock to run faster. I’m so used to running at a steady pace, that the sustaining of a faster pace for a defined amount of time seems hard. All the more reason to do it, I suppose. I especially enjoyed the sprints. I almost never sprint and it felt good to just pin back my ears and let rip.
After the intervals, we did some strength exercises. Planking, mostly. I have a pretty strong core from all the running I do, but it was slightly depressing to learn – when doing side lifts, where you lie on one side lifting yourself up with your bottom arm – that I have very little strength at all in my left side and was basically unable to lift my body weight off the ground with my left arm. My right arm was better, and I know that I’m losing muscle volume in my left-hand side, but it was a bit dispiriting to be able to directly compare just how much weaker I am on that side. All the more reason to do the exercises, I suppose.
Overall, I enjoyed the 80 minute session and might well be back. I’m a sucker for punishing myself, after all.
Before the intervals, I also took part in the Uborka virtual team mile… running a timed mile at some point on 30th July and plotting my time on the website. In spite of crossing a couple of roads and generally feeling like I was stuck in a time vortex where time and distance moved incredibly slowly no matter how fast I ran, I clocked 7m and 4s. I tried to set out and maintain a faster pace than my normal running, and actually that’s not too bad, although I think that if I try it again, I can push below 7 minutes. I might give it a try. It feels good to push myself. I'm paying for it a bit today, but it still feels good.
Speaking of which, I’ve sent off my application for a charity place for the 2015 London Marathon too. I’ve entered the ballot, but if you’re going to try and do this, you might as well commit, eh?