When it comes to running, I go pretty easy on myself. Generally, I set goals I know I can achieve with a moderate amount of effort. It’s fun to collect medals and rack up personal records, but in the end, running is, above all else, just a way to get exercise.
And yet ...
And yet, it is intoxicating to set and achieve running goals. It makes me re-think what I’m capable of. Running the marathon last May let me know I could do “far”. During the summer that followed, I decided to find out if I could do “fast” … “fast” being a relative term, used in this instance to mean “not quite as slow”.
My goal was to run a half-marathon in less than two hours. My previous best time was about 2 hours, 12 minutes and 21 seconds. I gave myself one year and three races to achieve my new goal. (Okay, I know, not exactly a stretch goal, but I don’t even like to reach past my fingertips to get the TV clicker, so I didn’t see why I should strain myself too run fast.)
Over the summer, I started speed training, using the FIRST half-marathon training plan. This three-day-a-week running program includes speed work, a tempo run and a long run each week. The other days are for cross training and rest and, thinking back, I did a lot more of the latter than the former.
I thought increasing my distance was hard. But running fast is a whole other kind of hard. I discovered new muscles I didn’t know I had – muscles buried deep in my butt where they probably should have remained undisturbed.
It worked though. In June, I ran a 5K in 26:46, improving on my previous PR by over a minute. In August, I shaved 30 additional seconds off my 5K time. I also saw improvement in the longer distances. In early September, I ran a 21K training run in 2 hours and 1 minute – and started to believe I might just make my goal of a sub-2 hour half.
I tested my readiness on September 21 at a new race sponsored by the Canadian Armed Forces called the Army Half. The event was organized and executed (not surprisingly) with military efficiency on a gorgeous, slightly overcast fall day. The training, the weather, and the flat and mostly-flat course combined to give me my best run ever and help me smash through the two-hour time barrier to finish in 1:58:15. That’s my chip time, and my only regret is that finish time cloc read 2:00:13 when I passed under it. My husband also ran his personal best, finishing in just a shade over 1:40.
So the planned to complete in three races, I finished in one. I got faster by training faster – no surprise. And now that I’ve achieved that goal, I’m asking myself, “what next?” I don’t have a running goal right now and I have to tell you, it’s a situation that doesn’t do me any good. I can feel a slow and lazy winter lurking just around the corner. I can set another goal, but it’ll be a much harder one. On the running tree, I’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit. Am I ready to put in the work to climb a little higher up? Stay tuned.