How Speedwork Saved my Running Life
The summer before my senior year of high school, I decided that I wanted to go out for cross-country. I had never been athletic, despite playing soccer as a kid and trying out for numerous teams in junior high and high school.
But something inspired me that summer, and even though I was probably 40 pounds overweight, I started running along the bike trail behind my parents’ house.
Of course, I knew absolutely nothing about running or training. I gave up after two weeks. I stuck to choir and theatre and band, and pushed athletics to the back of my mind. But that feeling of wanting to be a runner never entirely went away, and in 2005, I had a chance to explore it.
I signed up for a “Learn to Run” clinic with a friend who was training for a triathlon and was nervous about the run portion.
Becoming a Runner
I was still overweight, unathletic and now 8 years older, but this time running stuck. I became obsessed. I ran every day. I ran all sorts of races. I met amazing people. I had a blast. I bought lots of running clothes. Running became a huge part of my identity, part of my daily way of living. I hearted running.
Fast forward to April 2014. After 9 years of running, 4 marathons, 60 pounds lost and a whole new world discovered, I was getting bored. I dabbled in trail running and considered doing my first ultra. (All the cool kids were doing it.) I ran and ran and ran, but never with a purpose other than just running. Honestly, I was kind of bored. I decided to hire a coach.
Hiring a Coach
My coach introduced to me something I had never done and was scared of - speedwork. And my coach’s specialty is the mile, so this is serious stuff. In the two months that we’ve been working together, I have learned so much. She gives me a month of workouts at time, and helps me understand how they build toward my race goals.
She gives me fancy drills and stretches to do before every workout (and reminds me why I need to do them). She provides weekly feedback via email, and I know I can reach out to her with any questions I may have and I’ll hear back within a day.
Her workouts are sometimes agressive, too - she doesn’t let me coast. Until recently, I used to think she was trying to kill me before every workout, but then I would do the workout and meet or exceed her goal splits.
Most importantly, for me, she holds me accountable. She calls me out when I tank a workout, or when I slack off on my long runs. She gives feedback on how my workouts are going, where I might be able to improve things, and lets me know when I need to chill out and stop being so hard on myself.
It’s really neat to be able to geek out with someone, too, about lactate threshold and quarter splits.
Renewed Excitement to Run
Working with her has brought energy and excitement back to running. I’m scared before every workout and overjoyed at the end. After years of slogging through 4 hour long runs, it’s so refreshing to have your run for the day be 2 x 2x400m with a warm-up and cool-down. I can be home in time for dinner!
If you are feeling bored or that your running has gone stale, I highly recommend finding a coach. It could be just the thing to give you a kick in the pants and get you excited about running again. Getting faster never hurts, either. You might even discover that you prefer the mile to the marathon.