While sucking air at the track yesterday, and dragging ass far behind my three speedy running buddies, Jane, Jen and Vanessa, I kept chanting to myself, Just…keep…going…this is so flippin’ good for you…Just…keep…going.
Under normal circumstances yesterday’s workout would have been challenging, but not one that left me reeling, and mumbling, “Holy crap, I have a long, long, loooooong way to go.” What took it up a notch was pushing the pace by running with faster chiquitas.
It’s definitely not easy on the ego, but pushing outside your comfort zone and running with speedier people is fabulous for your mind and body—especially if your goal is to get faster. As we all know, most good stuff happens outside our comfort zones.
Yesterday’s workout consisted of a 1-mile warm-up followed by intervals of:
…cooling down with a half or three-quarter mile jog (at least I think that’s what it was. I can’t remember—I was in a bit of a fog at this point).
What else took it up a notch was having Coach Nash there, hollering at us to pick up the pace or work on our posture, while every once in awhile throwing in a positive comment when he sensed we might need it after calling out our times. Nash, by the way, just won the USATF Master’s 8K Championship in Brea last weekend, running a blistering 31:00 at age 66. Clearly he knows what he’s talking about, so I listen.
In the past, track workouts have mostly been a solo affair for me because my training schedule never meshed with others’. Either their workouts were too close to my long run or the day after a tough tempo run. I didn’t want to give my body any extra fuel for injuries so I honored my recovery days and forged ahead alone on the track on days that did work.
And work is exactly what those days always felt like, especially when my Garmin became the center of my focus instead of the joy of running or even my form or breathing.
Having a tribe at the track makes all the difference. I didn’t even look at my Garmin yesterday until after our workout. Instead I ran by feel and Nash’s suggestions.
Not only does a tribe do that, but it also does so much more:
• A tribe makes conquering tough workouts fun (yes, I said FUN), so that you want to come back for more. Really.
• A tribe holds you accountable. You know the others are going to be there each week ready to roll. You don’t want to be the only one who wimps out, even if you’re not feeling “it” on that particular day.
• When you share in the “sufferfest” with your tribe, the workout feels lighter and zooms by quicker. Just like all those Nike ads espouse, you Just Do It–often before you even realize it. And if you weren’t feeling “it” like I mentioned before, your friends will pull you along until you are feeling “it.”
The topper is when your speedy running buddies can actually TALK while they’re blazing around the red oval. We’re talking chitchatting about kids or husbands or upcoming events. Yesterday Jane turned around and asked me a question, trying to include me in the conversation. Although I could do little more than choke out a few words and grunt, her question did make me smile and momentarily take my mind off how hard that 800 felt.
Every time I’m pushed outside my comfort zone like this, I always think about a terrific Santa Barbara runner named Teri Malinowski. She’s in her fifties and is now part of the Oiselle Santa Barbara Running & Racing Team. I’ve asked her to be a guest speaker for some of my kids running teams because she’s such an inspiration to me.
Teri didn’t start running until later in life and when she first started going to track workouts, she felt a little embarrassed because she would always finish last in her group. “Everybody else would finish, then they’d cheer me on,” she’d say, chuckling as she remembered back to those early days. “Eventually, after a lot of hard work and consistency,” she’d continue, “I was no longer dead last. Then eventually I became one of those runners who’d finish and cheer for the last runner. Then slowly I started moving up into groups that were a little faster….”
You know where this story is going. Yep, now Teri is a super speedy running chiquita who is often a top finisher at many races, from 5ks to half marathons. What strikes me most about Teri is how she put herself out there and left her pride at home; and how that simple step started the ball rolling to where she is today.
It really is that simple.
A generous slice of humble pie + a speedy and supportive tribe = a super recipe for getting stronger and faster (while having fun).
Blaze on, dear running friends!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your running experiences. Do you have a running buddy, a team or tribe or do you go it alone?