I’m all about running happy. The entire reason I run is because I enjoy it and the places it takes me. I love nothing more than running a half marathon in a city I’ve never been to on a weekend break with my Husband. It’s my favourite.
Most of the training I do to get to a fitness level where I can run happy half marathons are about running happy too. Picking my favourite routes to run, getting up and out after a long day sitting down, wearing a favourite running outfit or new shoes, running junk miles. Basically, I always try to run and be happy.
…Then coached track sessions came into my life. The track sessions are a part of my training to run a sub 1:50 half, which itself is a part of my running happy philosophy as setting goals and reaching them makes me happiest. But, the track sessions themselves have a weird way of exerting a force so strong it challenges my happy. I call it Track Dread. At the beginning Track Dread was due to my unknown of track sessions. How do I get to the track? Should I show up extra early? Would they be too fast? Too long? Would I be able to keep up? What are the etiquette rules of the track? Am I wearing the right outfit for track? How long is a track anyway? 800m is 2 laps or 3? Do I have my Garmin set on the right pace? What is my 5k pace? So many of these questions had no answers so it was hard to be happy and easy to dread the first sessions.
I’m into Week 4 of coached track sessions (and my 8 week training plan) and have found that even though all my questions were answered in the first 5 minutes of my first session (and repeated every week for other newcomers) I still have constant Track Dread. It seems I’m not alone either, when I tweeted about it yesterday some of my speediest and run-loving Twitter friends replied saying they also have the dread when it comes to speedy sessions (even my coach was dreading the track session!)
With Track Dread so prevalent, and my running happy attitude in danger of drowning in dread, I decided to come up with some positives to think about when looking forward to track practice. I am pretty sure the dread comes from the knowledge that I will be running fast and working hard for a good 40 minutes. It’s always uncomfortable to be out of breath and in track sessions they’re usually over by the time you find your rhythm and start to enjoy it. In the past few weeks I’ve been frustrated because I still feel uncomfortable during a track session. Shouldn’t it be getting easier? *lightbulb moment* Nope! I’ve discovered that track sessions are less about time and distance improvements and more about learning to be OK with working hard. Dare I even say being happy about working hard?
While I did my speed endurance themed track session on Tuesday night, I focused on the positives of working hard. My breathing was harder than the dudes running sub-5s as they passed me, but it was consistent and not getting more laboured as the session went on. My legs were tired during the first 1k rep, but I tried to lift my knees higher for a few strides, or kick my legs back, or pump my arms straight, or engage my glutes, all things that yield positive results in my running (and make me feel like I’m Mo Farah in a Nike commercial). I also ran with someone. At my first track session the coach mentioned we should get into groups loosely based on our speed, as it’s better to run in a group than 10m ahead of them the whole time. I’ve fell into a great group of what I like to call the-slowest-group-on-the-track-who-don’t-give-up-or-skip-laps. One session there were about 5 of us and we took turns leading reps and running in a group tight around the corners like we were Mary Cain. The group helped because as soon as your legs and breathing started to tell you to slow down, you locked in step with someone and just kept going (it really is that simple). Also there are always people around to say WHAOOOOHHMYGOD to at the end of each rep. Sharing the effort of working hard is a clear positive.
It’s not hard to imagine how all those positives add up to absolutely loving track sessions the second I cross the finish line of the last rep. The elation of finishing a session I didn’t think I would and continuing to work hard when I didn’t want to… well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why I keep going back even with Track Dread.
Oh and last tip: Track Dread is minimized when pre-track Laura buys post-track Laura some Chocolate Milk and a sandwich. Food anticipation trumps Track Dread any day.