Even though there was nothing to win.
I went to my first group speed training session this evening. It's organized by a local running store, Rush Running, and I've been wanting to try it for months, but have been too afraid to go. I know I need to work on getting faster, but I don't know anything about running track or training, but I made up my mind today to give it a shot.
I tweeted my friend, Matt, to see if he would be there, and he encouraged me to come out to the track and try it. He even called me at work to talk me into coming! When I got there, he was so helpful to explain how many meters make up a lap and made sure I understood what was going on. We got our instructions, and then we were off!
This was the drill (I think; I forgot halfway through, but this is what I did.)
800 meters at 5K pace
400 meters recovery jog
800 meters at 5K pace
200 meters recovery jog
400 meters all out
Since I'm a beginner at speed work, I was told to do this twice. Veterans were to run it three times. I lined up in the back because I fully understand that I'm slower than most people. My fastest 5K pace is about 10:15 per mile. But tonight I found myself at the back of the pack, not catching up to anyone - not even the old guy. I checked my Garmin, and I was running mid 8's. I don't run 8-minute miles. I know that's too fast, and I can't sustain it for very long. But I was DEAD LAST. I ran so much faster than I should've run, but I didn't slow down. For me, a recovery jog should be about a 12:00 pace, but I was running barely a 10:00 for some reason. I never actually recovered before it was time for the next 800 meters of speed. I also never caught up to anyone.
While we were running, the organizers were jogging the track the opposite direction and shouting encouragement to oncoming runners. As I was running my second 800 meters, one of them said, "Looking good! Nice and relaxed!" But I wasn't on my relaxed recovery lap. I WAS RUNNING AS FAST AS I COULD. Compared to the other runners, I looked like I wasn't even moving. I tried not to count how many times I got lapped by the front runners, but I did. It was a lot. I also ran without music, which I'm not used to doing. Since I was overdoing it, all I could focus on was the sound of my heaving lungs, which was surprisingly loud. And I should mention that it was 90 degrees under sunny skies and so humid I could barely breathe. Things were not going well.
I tried to rationalize that the reason I'm there is because I'm not fast and need to get faster. I shouldn't expect to be better than anyone because, well, I'm just not very good at this. But I'm usually better than someone. At least one person. I've heard several people say that these group training runs are fun because there are people of all different skill levels and paces, so there's nothing to be intimidated about. But what if you're the slowest pace? Someone has to be last. What if that's you?
Today, I gave up after only one set. I didn't run two like I was supposed to. I was too hot and had run too fast so that when it was time to sprint, my pace barely changed. I couldn't imagine doing another set in that heat and behind all those people who were running so strong. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone and walked to my car and left. I am a sore loser, even though there was nothing to win.
In running, just as in life, you have to run your own race. There's always someone smarter, someone more successful, someone always has a better idea, someone's always prettier. And in running, someone's always faster. But in my case, tonight, every single person was faster. I quit and went home because I was hot and tired, but I also quit because I didn't like being last. I'm not proud of the way I behaved, and I know that I'll never get better if I waste energy comparing myself to others.
Since I've been writing this, Matt tweeted me to say great job and to remind myself of where I started and how far I've come. From that perspective, I have a lot to be proud of. This time last year, I was struggling to run for 90 seconds at a time. Tonight I ran a little over a mile and a half, and my average pace was 9:35. I sorted my running log by pace, and that's my fastest training run EVER. I've definitely come a long way since last summer. Now I just need to work on having an attitude I can be proud of. I'll be back at Rush Hour next week to give it another try.
Because I was a big baby about this, I don't have any photos from speed work. I always like to include pics with my posts, so I'll leave you to admire the cutest dog in the world.