Marlene Farrell’s Blog: Back On Track
Today marked my 2011 return to the track. I planned for this day and freed a block of time when I hoped to feel energized and speedy. But the sky pours rain all day, with no sign of letting up. So I jog down to the track from my car, my baseball cap snugly shielding my face. My clothes are sticking to me only a lap into my warm-up.
When I first started running track workouts, after a ten year hiatus beyond high school, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I still don’t, not really, because I can feel the problems of my form without knowing how to fix them. But I make fewer mistakes.
For one, I warm up now for a long time. As a general rule I do a 2 ½ mile warm-up and cool-down. That’s five miles before adding any speed – so I’ve learned I cannot rush it and anticipate at least a ninety minute session on the track.
On a day like today the long warm-up helps calm my fears of the discomfort ahead. About two miles into the warm-up I run close to interval pace for 1.5-2 laps. This part usually sucks, and I’m grateful that my timer isn’t running. Then I do several minutes of dynamic stretching, which is a basic exaggeration of the motion needed when going fast.
Then it’s time to turn up the volume on my IPod and start my watch. Today I run 5 x 1 mile intervals. They’re decent, though not what I was capable of a year ago when I was in the middle of some very serious training. Because a track is so demanding, I longed for perfect conditions but had to settle for two lakes at the far ends of the track that had to be skirted or else waded ankle deep, and a frisky wind that threatened to pull my cap off my head.
I wish I had a friend with me. Last year a very generous friend would meet me and run my workouts or at least the second half of my intervals. His presence reminded me not to dawdle or daydream and gave me incentive to push hard. So far this year I’m not organized enough to recruit a companion (Would you like to join me at the Peshastin track? Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org).
So I run alone, with the quick beats of music setting my rate of turnover. I get a one lap recovery, which is important, because it prevents full recovery and thus more closely simulates racing effort.
No matter what times I clock for my intervals, I have also learned that tomorrow’s run must be easy, like the Kenyans know how to do. Not necessarily short, but slow relaxed miles will let my muscles recoup before the weekend’s tempo run.
Do you run at a track? If not, but you would like to race faster, there’s no better way to gauge your current fitness and perform repeats that stress your muscles in a positive way that leads to further strength and speed. In addition, the track builds mental toughness as you stare down a hard workout and refuse to flinch. Somewhere nearby, at a local school, there’s a free track waiting for you.