French Bloke Runs

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Tag: Track

More running with Serpentine

Like I mentioned recently, I just joined the Serpentine Running Club. I already had a hills session with the club and despite it being tough, I went back last week and I’ll certainly go back this Saturday. It’s not that I love running hills, but I’m not as good at it than I though I was and I can see that it is really beneficial. This time was even tougher than the previous session: we did 3 times 12 minutes of running up and down different hills in Greenwich park, but this time I was less ridiculous than the first time: I didn’t give everything I had in the first twelve minutes, so I had energy left for the 2 following intervals, and I didn’t finish last, I even overtook some runners during the exercise, so I’m getting there and it’s really rewarding to see that I’m getting better.

But the main event with the Serpies this week wasn’t the hills session, it was the Club Championship. Last Tuesday was the 1 Mile event, at the Paddington tracks. Mid-distance is far from my favourite kind of running but Lanky Pole convinced me to come to the tracks on that day. It was good to see so many runners at the same time and so many motivated and dedicated club members, it reinforced the sentiment of belonging, especially since everyone must be wearing the club’s colours for races.

Runners were separated into different groups depending on their expected performance. There were 2 groups of women and 5 groups of men. Based on my only time on a mile so far (5:42 at the Westminster Mile) I ended up in the ‘C’ group, which wasn’t too bad.

I did my warm-ups, dynamic stretching and all the trimmings. On the starting line, I was really intimidated and I forgot all the advice Lanky Pole had given me a month earlier at the Westminster Mile. The race began really fast: even though I was at the back of the pack, I knew couldn’t hold that pace for the 4 laps, so I stayed at the back, slowly leaving the runners ahead widening the gap. I think being the last and seeing the others further and further ahead put me down a little bit, and I didn’t run as fast as I should have. Even though I finally managed to overtake one guy in the last lap, I only finished in 5:46, which is 4 seconds slower than my performance at the Westminster mile. This was bad for 2 reasons: you’re supposed to race faster on tracks than on the road, and it was the first time that I didn’t beat my PB in a race.

Anyway, I didn’t let this get me down: in a way, I had a new PB because it was my first Mile on tracks. And I knew I hadn’t given everything I had: my lungs weren’t even burning at the end of the race! So I knew I’ll be doing better the next time. Anyway, someone was in a worse position than me: unfortunately Lanky Pole couldn’t run because he was injured and he was really upset about it. But it didn’t prevent him (nor me) from having a post-run pint with everyone at the pub.

Running track

Running track Photo by Colin Harris

Track session

Last Friday, Lanky Pole texted me something along the lines of ‘Get your arse to Mile End Park Stadium’s  track tomorrow at 11am’. Okay it might not have been that commanding, but I felt compelled to answer by ‘Sure’! So on Saturday, there I was on a track field for the first time of my life, well at least it was the first time that I paid for it and that I went there to actually run.

Running track

Running track – Photo by Dean Hochman

We started to warm-up and I must admit that I really liked the bounciness of the ground, it’s really comfortable to run on. Also, it made easier the warm-up session that Lanky Pole had in mind: after the usual 10 minutes of easy run, we did lengths of high knees, high heels, sidesteps, shuffling, skipping and other silly styles of running. Then we did speed work, each length focusing on a different aspect of the running form and exaggerating it: knees forward, arms moving, etc…

So just after this tough warm-up, I was already knackered. Each of us went to our own training, we both had different kinds of intervals. I had 4×5 minutes intervals at 10k pace, which was quite depressing because my 10k pace is approximately his recovery pace. Also, despite the great comfort of the track, I found running in circles quite boring, which was worsened by the fact that my HR monitor didn’t detect my heart rate, constantly vibrating to tell me to run faster.

I kept my mind busy and observed the people who go to the tracks on a Saturday morning: there was a couple of people training for long jumps, a woman practising the hurdles, a dude in a wheelchair with his biceps bigger than my thighs, a small group of children practising with an instructor, and 2 or 3 guys who were running reeeeeeeally fast.

We did a few more laps to cool down and went on the grass to stretch. Man, after a tough session like this, that felt really good! And Lanky Pole always finds new ways of stretching muscles you didn’t even know you had. In any case, it’s really nice to train with someone when you’re used to run alone, it keeps you motivated.

After that, a conversation started between us and one of the reeeeeeeally fast guys. It turns out this guy was training to qualify for the Olympics on the 800m. We originally thought he was Canadian but it turns out that he was Namibian and I found out later that despite his humility, if he manages to qualify for the Olympics, it means that he will have broken his country’s record! The qualifying time is 1 minute and 46 seconds and the current Namibian record is 1:46:62. I have to admit I was impressed. OK, Namibia isn’t a big country in running (except for Frankie Frederiks 20 years ago) but still! He’s originally a 400m runner with a PB in the low 46 seconds, which isn’t too far from his country’s record (46:14). Impressed again.

Even more impressive was his training: that morning he had to run 10 times 400m under 58 seconds and then 10 times 150m under 20 seconds. That’s just insane, but he said he had prepared himself mentally for the whole week. He also said he doesn’t eat meat, which is apparently bad for recovery (Christopher McDougall draws the same conclusion in his last book ‘Natural Born Heroes‘, next on my reading list). This guy clearly has to right mindset to go to Rio this summer and I hope he makes it. Just qualifying to get there is an immense dream and I wish him all the best. Of course, after meeting him, Lanky Pole and I could only speak of this inspiring guy.

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