The other day I was set a track session, a fairly small and simple session of 2 sets of 3x500m, with a 300m jog recovery in between each rep, and a 6 minute rest between sets. Simple, right? Yes it was rather, however the reps had to be done at your ‘target’ 1500m time, my problem was because I’m not in peak shape I had no idea what that meant for me, so I thought I would just sit in with the group and feel comfortable. The first set goes by and I just sat behind the lead few of the group and I felt really comfortable running 80s,78s and 74s, then our group diluted for the second set and it ended up being myself with a few athletes who were running slower than me on the first set. I get to the second set after the long recovery and the first one feels good, I lead the pack and cruised in, completing the rep in 79 seconds. It was the second rep that really took its toll – as we were going at race pace, you begin to tie up like you would at the end of a race – so my form started to slip and I somehow managed to run 79 seconds again. At this point I am done for, I can’t walk in a straight line, my head is spinning and I have to put a lot of effort in to just start jogging again. The final rep comes to and one of the boys who was doing the other reps a few seconds behind me looked like he’d saved a lot for this last rep, so he rolls in in front of me and I struggle to get up to speed. The entire rep I am struggling to see the lines on the track, just hoping I can get my knees high enough to stop myself from walking. As we reached the final 150m of the rep, my racing instincts kicked in and I mustered up some energy from the depths of hell and burst into a sprint, overtaking the boy in front of me and finishing the rep in 77 seconds.
Not the best time, and it was only a training session, but it hurt like hell. Why do we dig deep in times like these? I am probably weeks off doing a race, so why am I pushing myself so hard? Why was I throwing up into the bushes just minutes after and not regretting a thing, apart from the peanut butter I put on my bagels three hours before? Because this is what runners do, we sacrifice feeling healthy, happy and sane from time to time, if it’s going to make us fitter than we were before.
To get better at running, to become fitter and faster, we need to experience moments like these; maybe not throwing up because of the lactic after a track session, unless you are a middle distance athlete, but all runners feel times of severe fatigue and general discomfort. Why? Because it means we can win a race, or set a personal best or shed those extra pounds that have been teasing us for months.
The pure fact that we are willing to suffer outlines the mentality of a runner, which with years in practice you can transfer to other aspects of life: every improvement we need to make involves a sacrifice, whether it be time, sleep, money or pain. The more times you put yourself through that the easier it will be. The more times I expose myself to sickening levels of lactic acid on the track, the more resilient I will become to it, so the harder I will be able to close at the end of a race. We know we have to experience temporary suffering to achieve our long term goals, that’s why the easiest people for runners to befriend are other runners…
Running makes the world go round.