Tales from my toughest session of the week.
Track feels tough. I am on track session six now (I’ve taken to counting them every week.) I had never been on a running track before this year – these things (track, cross country) which seem so common for young whippets these days have eluded me for 34 years. The only track I’d ever been on prior to 2015 was the tiny field in my primary school, where I used to frequently arrive first or second over the finish line in sprint races on sports day. Goodness knows why no one ever thought to put me on a track back then. As it turns out, I love sprinting, and I love track sessions. But mostly I hate them. It’s a paradoxical relationship.
Soaking in the bath post-session, where tonight I’d clocked up a a 72sec 400m which felt like flying, and pondering the quandary of my feelings about Monday nights under flood-lit skies, a thought popped into my head which seemed to sum it up perfectly:
‘Locked away inside the effort is fun – you just have to find it’.
Wow, that sounds so cheesy now I have written it down. I have to explain what I mean by this, because it seems odd, no? That the very thing I spend all day dreading somewhere in a latent but definitely existent part of my mind, is in actual fact where the real fun is at.
But it hurts to get to the fun bit.
|Where I spend Monday evenings unless I have yet another bout of winter lurgy|
Throughout the session, I play a mental game with myself, as ten laps are ticked off. “See if you can stay even, stay in the middle of the pack.” I commit quietly to myself a session of running my own efforts, solo, individual, as though no one else is even there, and the thought appeals to me – it’s my session. But my commitment to the goal of consistency dissipates as we lean forward between the first and second whistle.
Coach Chris holds the whistle to his lips, and after toot number one, I am briefly made aware of a little surge of hormones slipping into my belly and leaving again as quickly as they arrive. Flowing out of my stomach and distributing it’s etheral-like self evenly around my body from the tips of my toes to the top of my sweaty head.
At that moment, between whistles, that commitment to the sensible plan is entirely cast aside.
I’m off again, playing a game of speed and endurance with myself, and erratically yo-yo-ing my efforts from lap-to-lap; annoying, surprising, who-knows-ing my fellow runners, who are probably in fact taking very little notice and focusing on their own journeys toward lap 10 and dinner.
When I have committed to a circuit of seeing how fast I can run, first, it’s about ticking off those running on the inside and then immediately putting in a little surge and quickening my cadence to gain some clearance. My chest begins to grip me a little at 200m. I quieten my breathing and tell my self to hold on. I hang in, push on, glide a bit. At 300m my chest is burning and a tightness grips my sternum. Yet it feels oddly good, I’m running fast now, out in front.
As I turn the final corner, I quieten my breathing almost to a pause to hear any if there is anyone closing the gap behind me, to decide in a split second how soon to go in for the final effort. I lift my focus for the final stretch, my vision dazzled by the floodlights against darkness, head skyward, engage my shoulders and arms more now. Take a final inhalation and push right through an invisible wall of my limits to the 400 line.
It is exactly at this point, between 300 and 400 metres, that a euphoric sensation arrives, summarised here as ‘fun’.
After six laps that feel like forever, the final four dissipate quickly. And upon finishing the 10th lap, I gasp repeatedly and hang the top half of my body floppily, head drippily toward the rubbery red track, coarsely breathing words that sound a bit like “that was a tough session”, Which it was.
I am thereafter pleased with myself, satisfied, and have a whole week until I put myself through it all again.
I can’t help but think that if I master the art of even splits, and with it, mind control, that this session won’t be such a love/hate night on my weekly training schedule. But the question is, would it be as ‘fun’.