With every step I take, I feel my lungs burn, I hear myself breath hard and fast and there’s a knot in my stomach that just won’t go away.
The reason? I’m going all out, trying to see how fast I can finish the 7 kilometre course of the Manawatu Striders Super Seven Series.
It’s week 4 of the series. Wouna and I unfortunately missed week 2, but for the first and third runs we kept to a fairly casual trot. Being far from racing fit, this seemed like a good approach, allowing us to enjoy our runs while still finishing fresh.
This week, however, being the halfway mark of the series, we decided to not run together like we always do, but each rather going at our own pace, to try and push it a little to see where our fitness levels are. Since we pretty much always run together, running alone and faster than usual can be quite stressful – you have no idea how to pace yourself, or even how hard to push. How fast is too fast? How long will you be able to keep going?
Hence the knot in my stomach – this happens each time I run alone, trying to push my own pace.
Thanks to my faster than usual start, I was able to pass the early bottlenecks (where the open field narrows through a gate and then again into a rather narrow footpath) without having to slow to a walk. Wouna, who started a bit further back, wasn’t as lucky and had to settle for short walks in these transitions. Once on the footpath, I tried to pace myself at a speed that, while faster than usual, still felt fairly comfortable. I found an experienced-looking runner in front of me who seemed to run a similar pace to me, and followed him for a while. I soon realised, however, that our strides didn’t quite match. I wanted to go a little faster, so I passed him and continued along my way. The kilometres passed quicker than usual, and I still felt good, so the worst of my stress started to dissolve. After a quick sip of water at the halfway water table we started heading back towards the finish. Ahead of me was a group of about 5 runners, including a lady who passed me when I was still following the experienced-looking guy earlier, and I thought I might as well try and keep up with them.
As the minutes passed, the group started picking up the pace, but I managed to hang on. Passing the 5km mark, I still had some gas in the tank, so I sped up some more and passed the group as I headed along to the finish. Different runners around me clearly had paced themselves quite differently – I passed many who seemed to be struggling a bit, while at the same time many others comfortably passed me as well.
By now my lungs were really burning. After what felt like forever, we finally took the last turn and sprinted over the field to the finish. I was secretly hoping to finish in around 35 minutes (for a 5 min/km pace), so I was very pleased when I passed the finish in 33:45. Not too shabby, I thought!
After a quick glass of water I returned to the finish line to wait for Wouna to complete her run. What pace would she manage, I wondered. On our runs together we hadn’t run faster than a 6 min/km pace for a long time, so I assumed a time of around 42 minutes was on the cards. But no, none of this slow-poke stuff – well below the 41 minute mark I saw her speeding across the field, passing the finish in 40:50. Nicely done!
So we both have our targets for the next runs – will we be able to better our times over the next 3 weeks? I sincerely hope so, and I’ll be sure to give it all I’ve got. We should probably start including a few quality sessions (speed sessions, hill training) in our training if we want to get faster.
Now if I can just figure out how to get rid of those pre-run running-alone jitters…