Ever since I can remember, I always get antsy when a work takes a lot of detours to get it done. I can’t seem to take people who move like there’s zero gravity. I get impatient when vehicles in front of me start halting to a crawl. Or when a phalanx of runners start blocking the road and take groupies like they’re in a street dance number. In my mind, I was moving like Mercury and cutting through people, streets and buildings and reaching my destination in a flash. In the real world, it would take me eons to accomplish what I had set out for. Even if I’d like to finish ahead of time, a lot of other factors beyond my control would weigh and eventually slow me down.
That’s what I love about running. You feel like everything rests on your shoulders (and two legs and the other major muscle groups aiding them). If you fail to make the cut and miss being qualified, you have no one to blame but yourself – for being unable to train properly and consistently, for letting the rain and the wind dampen your spirit or for letting all those negative emotions flood your being, sucking out everything with it.
But it took me years to harness and unleash my speed demons into my runs and races. I never learned how to push myself and overtake the runners in front of me. I felt that finishing my races within cut-off time was more than enough, considering many were quitting or going beyond the cut-off time. Not that I wasn’t competitive. But I was content being the middle-aged runner among the midpackers. I thought that being able to run, almost injury free and finishing it was more than I’ve envisioned and yearned for.
But I knew something was trying to break free as I neared my mid-century life. Perhaps, it started when I chanced upon the book Advanced Marathoning. In it, I learned about VO2max, lactate threshold and running economy in a more structured and comprehensive narrative. So I learned a great deal on the physiology and science of running, now how was I to apply them on the track and the road?
I tried to follow the training log for the slowest group and still modified (read: cheated) its grueling and demanding training schedule. The most lung busting of the routine is the speed run which has greatly improved my breathing where I usually struggled. There were also workouts to increase the lactate threshold and VO2 max, which I still haven’t optimized as I’m still prone to cramping. But overall, I’ve put on some speed and was less to walk or slow down.
I still have to do a podium finish or qualify for the Milo finals but the strides I’ve made this year have made my finish times more predictable and controlled even in the absence of a pace watch (I just need to finish 160 strides in a minute to know I’m within acceptable pacing). Who would have thought, I’d still be breaking PRS at age 50? So I perhaps, there could be something exciting that still awaits me. No matter, I’m just here for the ride of my life.