A little over a week ago I made a decision. Feeling the drag of being indoors in a gym after a long and dreary winter, I wanted to capitalize on a turn in the weather that was as sudden as it was welcome. I would drop my gym sessions to two a week and for the first time ever embark on a 5 day a week running program. An additional 12km run that would up the ante such that each week my new basic training mileage would equal my former peak conditioning distance for marathons and ultras.
12 kilometres on Tuesdays. 12 kilometres on Wednesdays. 5 kilometres on Thursdays. 21.1 kilometres on Fridays. And then the crowning achievement, the long run on Sundays of 25 kilometres. As I get used to the new demands of my regime I will tweak these figures. The long run will become much longer. Speed will become more of a focus. And hills will rear their daunting heads yet again.
For now the main focus is to get my body adjusted.
But there was a surprise in store.
My times all that first week were fast. At least by my meager pedestrian standards. Faster than I’ve been in 2 years. Continuing that momentum, yesterday I would stop the watch after 12 kilometres in a time of 59:11.3. But with an asterisk. I would find that my first kilometre was miscalculated by Garmin. It was like a wind-aided 100 metre sprint. An under-rotated figure skating jump. A foot fault at Roland Garros. My 12km time wasn’t going to count. But it did whet my appetite.
It’s been a long long time since I saw a sub 1 hour 12km training run. Even one that was suspect. And it made me believe that I could do it. For real.
With that in mind I left my apartment this morning on a mission. I wanted to go under one hour for the 12km.
After my watch beeped to signal that it was ready I set out with conservative aggression. Allowing the sinews of my muscles to warm-up. Conserving energy for an attack in the second half.
Yet even so, ultimately, the pace would become punishing. My first 6 kilometres had elapsed in a time of 29:41.1. Well ahead of the one hour target.
Police officers regarded me with caution before realizing that I was merely an athlete and not a criminal. Dogs yearned to give chase. And my fellow runners nodded encouragement. As if their kindred spirits could sense what I was trying to achieve.
This wasn’t just an average Wednesday morning jog.
With the winds starting to swirl and my body starting to feel the effects of mounting lactic acid, I refused to let up. I wanted this too much. More to the point, I wanted what this symbolized too much — I wanted hope. A resurrection of that driving force that had been missing for many moons in my training. It wasn’t merely about being under the 1 hour mark. No. After all this time of fighting to maintain my diminishing speeds, or at the very least prolong my decline, a sub-one hour time would in my mind mean one thing; I once again had hope. And it was so tantalizingly close. Hope that I could yet again improve my running. That all of my efforts and struggles were not in vain. That I would be rewarded. In short, hope that I could still be better.
It’s the final kilometre. And I need to make my way northward and uphill. It sounds trivial, but I won’t allow a speed effort to be tainted, asterisked, with any thought that my accomplishments were boosted by a downhill. Uphill and against the winds was the price I would pay. A small price given the hope that a genuine sub 1 hour effort would bestow.
With my feet pistoning, my arms driving, and my lungs heaving, I close in on the finish. Pedestrians on their way to work afford me a wide berth. And some a look of mild to moderate concern over my disheveled state.
As my watch beeps to signal 12 kilometres I frantically stop my watch and slow to a walk. My lungs still pounding, my heart still throbbing.
My final 6 kilometres were done in a time of 27:20.4.
Total time for the 12km: 57:01.5.
A smile plays on my lips before yielding full force to the joy that envelops me.
I won a very personal internal battle.
And with that personal victory I once again have
H O P E