Running has a special magic for me. I can have a great swim and come out of the water feeling like I belong there, rejuvenated and exhausted at once. Being on my bike can make me the king of the world- hitting the pedals hard after a downhill, watching my cadence and speed soaring, climbing to the top and rushing down. But only running hits me really deep inside. Only running can make me cry.
Last night I went to bed not knowing what the morning had in store for me. I couldn't open my training plan and couldn't decide between speed and tempo. I woke abruptly before my alarm went off and realised I was pretty much wide awake, so made a cup of coffee and switched my laptop on to see what FIRST had in mind. 4 x 800 just wasn't that tempting, so I decided to start the week with key run #2. As you may know, my tempo runs have been my slackest area throughout this training programme- I tend to fit them in where I can, and they have often ended up being turned into easy runs or cut short for reasons sometimes beyond and sometimes within my control. So what better time than a Monday morning to hit a 5 mile tempo run on the head?
It was still very dark when I left (at about 6am- I really dawdled over that coffee!). Although I loved the summer mornings when the sun was rising at 5:15, I really relished being out in the dark again. I warmed up slowly down the hill. I've measured the distance now, and it's not much over a mile, yet it usually takes me over 10 minutes, even when I'm not running super slow- I think it's the down hill, and that fact that I don't measure the corners very carefully on mapmyrun. I ran with P's music again, so warmed up to some Bowie, thehn switched to Elton John's greatest for the tempo part. I figured Sir E would be good for a tempo run- nothing too motivating, so I'd be able to keep a steady pace, and catchy enough tunes to keep me from clock watching too badly (I set myself a goal of checking only every k, not every 500m as I am wont to do). I hit the first km in 5:03, feeling awesome. Can't remember my exact splits, but the I got to the turn around (2.5mi) at 20:20 (8:08 pace). I was feeling happy- my HR was sitting in the high 160s, so I think I can honestly call it an "easy tempo" pace- maybe a little faster than steady state, but I have absolutely done harder "tempo" runs before.
On the way back, I got a glimpse of runners' high. That little zing that I had almost forgotten, until Thursday's run last week. Wind rushing through my hair, once again I was flying. I was taken back to the start of my running career, and to the first time I flew back then. Wow. I have really been enjoying my training runs, as you will all know, but not like this. I had forgotten how running can make me feel. Again, wow. I kept a good pace on the way back, and was on track at 7.5km for a very solid 5-mile time. Then the runnings gods intervened, and instead of playing "Cherish" the MP3 player flicked to Europe's "The Final Countdown." What else could I do when that riff started up? I cranked the tunes up, kicked my leg out and knocked that last 500m out at 6:54 pace (not very impressive for the level of effort, but I'll take it). It was amazing. Breathtaking (figuratively too!). Once more, wow.
I reached my starting point at 51:32, 40 minutes and 13 seconds after I started the 5 miles. That's 8:03 pace. And in typing this entry, I've realised that that means I did the second half of my workout in 19:53 (7:57 pace). Woo!
Something hit me as I crossed the finish marker, and headed up the hill back home. I was overwhelmed, by the still, sunrise beauty of the morning; by the last 2 minutes of effort; by 40 minutes of running at a good, solid, doable pace; by reaching in and finding my old self again. I realised with some confusion that my eyes were watering and that my thoat was all choked up. Realising that this race is ahead of me and there for the taking gave me that feeling I only usually get after a race. Maybe one day swimming or cycling will do this too. But for now, only running can make me cry.