Past Me Would be Proud

I have a joke with one of my friends called “past me would be proud.” Both of us are still pursuing competitive distance running post-college while also balancing jobs and lives in general. It’s hard. In college, it was understood that you carved hours of your day out for practice, not to mention the 24/7 access to the training room and a dining hall full of food you don’t have to cook yourself.

Although I do still have ambitions to run faster than I did in college, I’ve also come up with other goals I can accomplish – chasing soft PRs and celebrating relative successes.

Soft PRs are in events that I didn’t run often in college – the 400, the 800, the 10k, and to an extent, the 3000 – basically anything but a 5k or 6k. I already managed a 10k PR this March, so the spring is for tackling the shorter events. Lucky for me, the Atlanta Track Club hosts All Comers track meets every year in May and June where I have the opportunity to take on some of these events without pressure (or embarrassing myself).

The first event I ran this year was the 400. I sadly didn’t get a PR (under 1:08) as I ran 1:09 which is what I almost always run the 400 in. It is hilariously predictable. If you need someone who can heal-strike their way to a 1:09, I’m your girl.

Last night I took on the 800. I had my eye on a PR and hopefully a sub-2:30. I ran it last year and managed to tie my PR (2:32), so I was excited to see what I could do this year with a goal in mind. The 800 is a strange and incredibly painful event, and I grimaced my way to a slight PR (2:31) but no dice on the sub-2:30. There’s always next year!

When I’m out of soft PRs, there’s always relative success. This is where “past me would be proud” comes into play. I’m still faster now than I was in all of high school and the beginning of college, so even if I don’t run a PR, at least I’ve got that going for me. I managed to progress every year as well, so saying “senior in high school me would be proud” is not quite as good as “sophomore year college would be proud.”

There’s something to be said for consistency as well. I feel like I’ve been stuck in between sophomore and junior year college for a while now, and when I read this quote in Runner’s World a few months ago, it stood out to me. I don’t even remember who it’s from!

“My times were nothing special in high school. I read an interview with Deena Kastor in which she talked about being consistent and believing that results will come over time. I just had this feeling that I had untapped potential and if I stuck with it, I could be successful.”

Even though I haven’t PRed in the 5k since college, I haven’t gotten slower, and there’s something to be said for all of those miles and workouts and races. I also ran under 19:50 for a 5k tempo twice in the last 2 weeks when 2 years ago I fell apart during a 5k race and ran 19:56. To run faster in a workout than I have in a race always feels really good. Plus, high school me would have killed to run under 20. 😉

PSA: Don’t Honk at Runners

There are many uncomfortable things that can happen while you’re out running – needing to use the bathroom, chafing, the weather being miserable, etc. not to mention the outside influences like getting honked or yelled at. I consider honking to among the worst.

The definition of running is that both feet leave the ground during your stride. This is the differentiation between walking and running. Meet officials at race walking events are constantly scrutinizing the stride of the competitors to make sure they always have one foot on the ground. So – while you’re running – there is a moment where your entire body is suspended in the air for each stride. Unless you’re purposefully bounding, you probably don’t even notice this.

You immediately notice when you get honked at, though. Imagine going from a casual stride to a jolted painful one. That’s what getting startled in mid-air does to your form. I’m not expecting to be honked at. All of the other drivers have managed to drive past without honking, so I expect that pattern of behavior to hold.

When someone honks at me, it feels like every muscle in my body contracts simultaneously for a split second. It’s impossible for me to continue running smoothly once I land for my next stride, and the jolt of adrenaline speeds up my heart rate and makes me more out of breath than I already am. Multiple honks are even worse. Even though the shock/jolt lessens with each one, it’s still like being zapped over and over.

To know when it’s acceptable to honk at a runner, I made this helpful chart.












12 is the Best Number for Workouts

As I warmed up for my 12×300 track workout this morning, a thought popped into my head I’ve had many times: 12 is the best number of reps for a workout.

Almost every rep is a new, generally recognizable fraction. Rep 3 (1/4), 4 (1/3), 6 (1/2), 8 (2/3), and 9 (3/4) all bring a new milestone. You really shouldn’t need a milestone for your first or second rep, and once you hit the 10th rep, you only have “one more ‘til one more.” Then you finish the 11th and let the elation of the “last one” carry you to the end of 12.

Working out with a team in college meant workouts full of comradery. There’s something about suffering together that forms solid bonds of sweaty friendship. The phrase “one more ‘til one more” came from that group of girls, and we used to sing (between gasping breaths) Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” once we reached the halfway point.

Now that my workouts are solo, I use fractions and other internal motivations. But sometimes, all you can focus on is the interval you are currently running. There’s a great passage in Once a Runner where Cassidy is running a terribly difficult workout (I don’t want to spoil it for you) and talks about focusing on one rep at a time – to slay it and then it’s brother after, over and over. There are times when it’s rough early – when you’re struggling much earlier than expected – and you have so far to go. If I can only focus on the rep at hand, I use rhymes.

One is for fun.
Two is for you.
Three is for free.
Four is a lore.
Five I’m alive.
Six is for kicks.
Seven I’m in heaven.
Eight is great.
Nine is mine.
Ten is (almost) the end.

Sometimes – everything goes well, and the rhymes are just for fun. Those are the best days.

Oh – and one more reason 12 is the best number? This guy wears it.