So its still 11 days until marathon training officially begins, but having built up to a half-marathon at the end of November I want to maintain my fitness and shed a few further pounds before the serious distance training starts. My history of running, albeit short, has been punctuated with injuries. These haven’t been too major but they have been as a result of ill-informed training, increasing mileage too quickly or (and most likely) carrying a little extra padding! Whilst the effect of weight on injuries is under debate I would certainly feel much better running alongside my 20-something year old students if I could shift a bit and I feel certain my running will improve.
The problem with distance running is that you practice long slow mileage, increasing your mileage either every week, or intermitently over a longer period, until you reach your goal. Long distance running is great for overall health but if you want to improve your race time and speed up fat burning then High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is where its at. The basic premise is short sharp bursts of intense activity interspersed with moderate activity or pace. This could take the form of short fast sprints followed by easy effort running to recover such as Fartlek or, as was brought into sharp focus this week, hill repeats.
Monday this week I bit the bullet and, after a half mile warm up jog I attacked a short steep hill 10 times. The hill in question is about 100 metres long and reasonably steep without being silly. I have done this hill repeat before but not for a while and I only managed 8 last time. Needless to say these were not ‘sprints’ as such – just me trying really hard to get to the top at something faster than a tortoise pace. But, 10 reps were completed and I finished my run with a half mile cool down all the while feeling thankful that I wouldn’t have to do that again for a while.
I have started running with some colleagues at work recently – colleagues who are significantly better than me but generous enough of spirit to accomodate my novice running. Over the few months I have been running with them we have gone for some nice 8-10k lunch time runs up and over a few hills sometimes, or occassionally around the running track. Having this regular week day run blocked out in my diary has really helped me to stay on track (pardon the pun) with training. If the run is in my diary no other meetings get booked over that lunch time and, so long as my running gear makes it into work with me, there are very few excuses left as to why a run won’t happen. Running with a buddy or a group is a great way to stay motivated and to ensure that you don’t let them (or yourself) down.
This particular wednesday the running gear made it into work, I had kept the time free and I was ready to run – and then came the suggestion of hill repeats. No – not again!!! However, these were like no hill repeats I have ever done – the hill is about 300 metres long and gets steeper towards the top! Horrendous. I did protest and confess to having winged everso slightly (!) about this but I actually managed to do the 5 required repeats and didn’t die in the process. I was, of course, the slowest but my running chums waited for me at the top before we all went back down again for another go. Possibly they were grateful for the extra 30 seconds rest in between reps… What struck me during this training is the same thing that was pointed out to me at the end of a race once (where I came fourth from last!) I was feeling slightly embarrassed about being so rubbish but my husband, who had watched everyone else cross the line before me, noted that yes I was purple, exhausted and lying flat on my back at the finish line, but so had everybody else been. I was knackered and had run my heart out but so had everyone else. We had all given it all we had, and the same was true of the hill-repeat session.
Its really important to remember that training isn’t competition. Yes, its good to use some friendly competition to drive yourself to train your hardest (and for some people that is a real motivation) but if you support each other and recognise each other’s achievements then you have all ‘won’. I am very thankful for my running buddies and intend to continue running with (well, just behind) them for as long as I can. I’m never going to win races – that just isn’t my motivation or my ability – but I can try and beat myself and beat my previous times and hill repeats are all part of that tactic. Train hard, race easy I think is the phrase. Needless to say, my lovely long slow 8 miler that I have planned for saturday is looking lush right now.