Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Runners Bond and a taste of speedwork

How many times have you been out running and somehow made a connection with another runner out there?  More often than not, I would guess.  Whenever I see other runners along the way I make an effort to say hello, give a nod or a wave, or start up a conversation.  It's one of the many things I love about running...the connection or bond you can make with a total stranger.

The other night I was stretching for a run at the West Hartford Reservoir when a young lady ran by and yelled, "Are you running Reach the Beach (RTB) in 2 weeks?"  I looked at my shirt and noticed the RTB logo, then looked back at her with a smile and yelled, "Oh yeah!"  My mind raced...she had no idea that this RTB means more to me than any of the previous events because I trashed my body in a 100 foot fall.  No time to didn't matter.  She just smiled, kept running, and yelled, "All right!"  It made me smile.  How cool is that...?

Tonight, I decided to go to the track and work on my form.  It's getting better, but still leaves a lot to be desired.  It's so clunky and awkward.  It is really frustrating because I used to have beautiful form.  I honed it for 30 years and the efficiency allowed me to run ultras with the best of them.  I wasn't the fastest guy, but I could out last you due to my economy of stride.  Now, it's starting from scratch to develop a stride that will work for me.  It's hard because the pain is still present, so I favor my good leg.  My hip rotation is a mess...I could go on and on.  Nevertheless, I decided to do one of my favorite workouts with the hope it would help me develop my stride: 1 mile repeats.

I did my warm-up exercises and did a slow one mile warm-up at around the track at 9 minute pace.  I was bumming as it felt lousy.  I noticed another runner moving slowly around the track.  He was a bigger guy and had his iPod going while he jogged around the track. go man!  I decided to add a shim to my shoe to see if it would help, did my stretching, and got ready for my first "fast" mile.    OK, here we go!

My stride felt weak, but the shim did seem to help.   My pace was OK considering everything, and I clocked a 7:17 for my first mile.  It hurt, but at least it was reasonable.  I used to do sub-6's at this track, but I'll take what I can get at this point.  As I sucked down some water, I noticed the big guy come chugging by and doing his thing.  I gave him a smile, and a big thumbs up.  He smiled back, but that was about it.  

My next mile started out horribly as it hurt like heck.  Ouch!  After about 150 yards, the pain and subsequent limp started to subside and I was able to pick up the pace a little.  I broke the tape at 7:34.  Woof!

On my last mile, it started off the same...a lot of pain at the start and then getting into a somewhat comfortable pace. I think I was on my 2nd or 3rd lap when I saw the big guy walking outside the fence.  He looked at me, saw the pain in my face.  Then he gave me a big smile, and swung his arms rapidly at his sides as if to say, "Go man!  You can do it!"  There is was again.....the runners bond!  Complete strangers, but the lift he gave me with that one little gesture kept me going for the rest of the mile.  I was really hurting, but his encouragement got me to the finish line at about the same time as my second mile: 7:30's.  Thanks man!  I appreciated it.  I'm not breaking any land speed records out here, but I sure appreciated the little bit of encouragement.

Those one mile times might seem slow or fast to you depending on your reference point.  For me, they are frustratingly slow as I mentioned above.  I know they will improve some, but I wonder how much I can gain back.  I know my form will never be the same.  I've lost some efficiency.  On the other hand, I'm amazed by the progress.  At one point I said I would be happy to walk without a limp and run 4-5 miles at an 8 minute pace a couple times a week.  Well, I'm almost there!  The walking is pretty normal now, and I just need to build some endurance to hold an 8 minute pace.   Of course, I will keep pushing for more.  Anyone who "knows me well" knows how I'm wired...I just keep pushing for more.

Enjoy your runs this week and give the other person a wave, thumbs up, or a word of encouragement.  You'll both feel great afterwards!