Last week was my first week back on the track, or doing any sort of speedwork, since when I was in the throes of Boston 2010 training. The schedule called for 4×800, and since the aforedescribed lightning spectacle prohibited me from doing it with my buddies on Wednesday night, I sucked it up and did it by myself… sola.
From middle throughout high school, I was always a track girl each spring, though of the sprinter mindset. It’s pretty funny to think about this now, because back then, if you would have told me to go run a couple miles, I would have scoffed and probably have hidden under the bleachers until an acceptable amount of time passed. I never understood why distance runners actually ran a couple “warm up” miles before their 800, 1600, or 3200 m event– because, after all, why would you ever run a *long* distance warm-up run to prepare you for another *long* distance race? My, how things have changed!!
Anyway. Nestled right amidst the Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Northwestern University lakefront campus is an all-purpose outdoor track and softball fields, affectionately called the Lake Shore Park, since it’s right at Chicago Ave. and Lake Shore Drive. After about a 2 mile warm-up there from work, I took a breath of courage (and mental tenacity, because I really didn’t want to be doing this by myself… speedwork, and pain in general, is usually more tolerable with others) and began the 800s and planned to do about 200 meters, or 2ish minutes of recovery, in between each one.
I’m happy to report that they actually went fairly well. Granted, I was a little rusty from not doing speed in quite some time, and my times slowed a bit as I progressed, but I finished with 3:28, 3:31, 3:34, and 3:38. I was shooting for somewhere between a 3:30-3:40 and tried to hit 3:35, but as you can see, that never happened. After a mile cool-down, I bussed it back home and finished the night with some push-ups and core work. It was a rather productive Thursday evening, and I can guarantee you that I slept like los muertos that night. 🙂
I can’t stress enough how important speedwork is to becoming a better, faster, fitter runner, and this is especially true for the marathoners of the world. It doesn’t matter if you run a 6 hour or a 3 hour marathon; everyone has something to gain from speedwork. Running 800s, or mile repeats, or hills forces you to leave that “long, slow run” mentality that often dominates, if not pervades, marathon training. Speedwork makes you cognizant of your running form, for you can’t move all that quickly if your form is out of whack (a technical term, I know, I know…). And, quite frankly, speedwork is FUN, IMHO, in a sick and twisted sort of way. If you’re strapped for time and can’t do your entire workout, I strongly suggest you consider doing some sort of speedwork workout instead. These workouts are usually short in duration but high in intensity. And, like I said, they’re fun 🙂