I hadn’t heard of a fartlek session before tonight. In fact, one of my sporty friends on Facebook had to tell me how to spell it! But that’s what I ran headlong into tonight, when I decided to return to Le Chéile AC. Extreme Ultra Runner John O’Regan was taking the session – what about that for running royalty? as we started off, he reassured me that I’d be running ‘within and outside’ my comfort zone. While my brain was trying to process that, I tried to explain that just turning up was outside my comfort zone!
Growing up, I always felt the definition of being fit was being able to run, and it was something that always eluded me. But this February I turned up at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip, determined to finally give it a proper shot. I joined their Couch to 5k programme and with persistence, patient trainers, and the support of the other ‘Fit 4 Life’ runners, I finally made it to my ‘graduation 5k’ just as the evenings were turning long and bright. Chuffed with myself… I threw my running shoes in a corner and left them there for a couple of days, which turned to a couple of weeks, which turned to a couple of months. Eventually I knew I’d lost my run-fitness but kept thinking that I’d start running again myself on my own, before facing the embarrassment of huffing and puffing my way back to the club. Well you can guess how well that worked for me!
Finally this week I decided to bite the bullet. I need to be fit for the Liffey Descent challenge for LauraLynn Children’s Hospice in September, I’ve got to keep my weight down to fit into my Sásta fitness training kayak, and I’ve signed up for the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race on October 5th – so it’s time to get my running shoes back on and face the music. I didn’t exactly grumble on Twitter, but I did suggest I might have to drive home when I found the car-park was full…. The Tweet said I wondered “if this would be the day when I realised I loved running”; well it didn’t quite work out that way – but…
We started with stretching exercises led by John who defies gravity with his balance. When jokingly challenged about his dance-like ability, the running supremo grabbed a girl out of the line and waltzed his way across the track in a decidedly accomplished fashion, to the collective squeals and delight of the group gathered along the start-line. Ice-breakers over, we moved to the main event.
The session involved a couple of warm-up laps on the track and then intervals of jogging separated by fast ‘pick-ups’ … running fast for 90, 60, 45, 30, 20 second bursts – something like that. To be honest, the numbers were swimming around in my head, I just concentrated on John’s whistle bursts to tell me when to run fast and when I could slow down. At first I tried counting the seconds to myself, pacing out the beats with my footsteps and breathing. I struggled to the end of each burst, running out of breath and begging in my mind for the whistle to blow. Then my mind settled down. Instead of counting and hoping for the sprint bit to end, I told myself I was relaxed and this was easy and I could run like this all night. I kept the pace slow and steady on the recovery stretches, running more slowly than anyone else, but running fast enough for me. I kept telling myself that I was comfortable instead of convincing myself I was struggling; and do you know, something happened. I began to believe. I began to believe I could run like that all night. I watched the sky turning dark, I watched the trees in the distance above the track, I looked at the runners ahead and their form and the beauty of how they moved, and I felt my joints moving easily, fluidly, almost like a dance. I think I almost meditated. I thought about warm days and felt the cool breeze on my face, I felt the sweat trickle down my back. I heard the whistle and I slowed, I heard the whistle and I picked up, and in the background I heard an encouraging voice telling me I was running faster than when I started. Finally we got the final whistle and sprinted to the end; and to my amazement I was sad to pull up.
I’m not quite ready to say I enjoyed the running… but I could have danced all night….
Monday Aug 12th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 20 mins lunchtime running in Stephens’ Green / couple of lengths in the pool with dad 🙂
Tuesday Aug 13th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 45″ Gym session – S&C
Wednesday Aug 14th: 40″ running session (Fartlek) with Le Cheile AC