There are evolutionary biologists, like Harvard's Daniel Lieberman, who have had the audacity to claim humans are beings which are uniquely suited for long distance running, especially when it comes to hunting for food. Body surface area, relative postural stance, internal and external structures...all seemingly tailor-made for chasing other vertebrates to the point of exhaustion, heatstroke, or collapse. Not all that much has changed to this point in time, biologically, save for a few mechanical issues caused by paved surfaces and societal norms. Add to that the little voice in our head which reminds us our food stores are as close as a walk to our car and a drive to the grocer.
Running events in the past couple of years have become less of a hare-and-hounds, catch-me-if-you-can thing and more of a herd activity. Participation is the thing; training group activities, for many (including my Sunday morning) groups, have the emphasis more on the "group" than on the "training." I'm using broad brush-strokes here; if your group is more-competitive then you are blessed to a certain degree.
This last Sunday morning my loving bride and I had the great fortune to (unintentionally) return to our more-ancient, more-predatory selves, if only for 90 minutes.
One of the unintended outcomes from the Achilles' tendon rehab has been that it takes me a little longer to warm-up in the morning. When people hear me grouse about "not being a morning runner," it's not that I dislike running in the morning (I ran a wonderful 7.5-miler one Wednesday morning with Suzanne during the recent government shutdown...) as much as it is I'm not "completely awake." The gastrointestinal system is a given, but my musculoskeletal system also needs an hour at the least from the time I crawl out of bed to the time I'm completely prepared to exert myself.
And sometimes a little longer.
My original plan was to run the first thirty minutes of the Sunday run a little bit faster than my marathon goal pace...no, I'm not training for a marathon, but I know what my Boston Qualifying pace is. However, when we got onto the loop my ankle was not feeling quite up to the task. I decided at that point to walk for fifteen minutes, or a mile (whichever came first), and then I would most likely be ready to run.
Suzanne started to run right from the start, leaving myself, three other joggers/runners and the three walkers in her wake.
I started to run at fifteen minutes exactly, at a pace which Pete said was "scalding dogs." Perhaps his dogs were being scalded, but I still felt, old, fat and slow. I thought I should have seen my wife at the two-mile point...I did not see Suzanne until about twenty minutes into my run, a little past three-and-a-half miles.
At that time, I started to push myself; I wanted to see if I could catch her before the four-and-a-half-mile mark on the course, where we would turn and run a quarter-mile before turning on to a residential street.
At four-and-a-quarter-miles, her leg turnover picked up. She hit the four and-a-half mile point about ten seconds before I did, running a solid 9:55/mile pace (her best effort since late 2007). Suzanne told me as we walked back up the road to regroup, "I heard you coming from behind and said to myself, 'there is no way I'm letting him catch me; not today...'"
Pursuing and being pursued during a workout can stir the embers of the competitive fires; simulating the stresses of a road race for the individual runner. What do you do when another runner comes up on your shoulder? Do you throw up the white flag of surrender, do you immediately counter the attack, or do you wait for a later moment to counter?
The pursuit workout can be done on a road course or on the track, intervals between slower and faster runners can be any duration you see fit, but every runner can benefit from a shoulder in the distance they want to catch, or hot breath slowly making its way to the back of their neck.
Yep, that was fun...it always is until someone gets hurt. It was definitely my turn...my ankle popped and I had to walk the three miles back, trying to catch everyone.
Michael Bowen is a training specialist/running coach who lives and trains in the Pensacola, FL area. He works with runners of all ability levels, remotely and in person. He and his wife, Suzanne, travel frequently to New Orleans to participate in and support running events and triathlons. He also writes two blogs, "If I Were Your Coach..." and "Red Polo Diaries."