Today I did my first speed session in, well quite a while - four months. Having run two ultras in that time, a 50-mile at the start of August and a 100km at the start of November, I used going long as a good reason (you may read: excuse) to take a break from going fast.
Doing speedwork requires mental commitment and concentration, more than running far does in my opinion. In the past five years I've been extremely commited to improving my speed and most of the time I enjoyed the workouts that take courage and willpower to begin, and complete.
Kathrine Switzer writes in her book Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports, “People always admire runners for their ability to withstand pain; that is not the issue. What people should admire us for is the ability to have the courage to face it. These workouts, especially the high-volume, fast intervals, were going to hurt. I did’t want to do them, but I also didn’t want to be a coward.”
In the months leading up to the 50-mile I did in August I had noticed a mental fatigue toward doing the sessions that require you to run hard, something that in hindsight probably had been building up for much longer than that. However, without fast sessions I can forget about ever achieving my goal to run a marathon in less than 3 hours so I'd been determined to stick with them.
As I enjoyed the 50-mile trail race in August so much, allowing myself to be a beginner without too many expectations for my finish time, it seemed easier to sign up for another ultra, the Haney to Harrison 100km, than to resume training for a marathon. I simply ran for distance, without much structure and definitely without speed work.
Running the 100km was still a challenge of course, but the focus was on extending the distance beyond what I had tried to do before, instead of on lowering the time it took me to cover a distance completed already. Sometimes the pressure to PB can weigh you down, instead of lifting you up.
As I did my first of four strides to warm up for an easy speed session today, I felt a rush from the sensation of running fast and I instantly knew that the ultra-break had been something I had needed.
I did four sets of 4 minutes fast, with a 45-second break in between each. As soon as I begun the second one, I laughed to myself - easing back into speedwork? Easy and speed rarely go hand in hand. But I loved pushing myself again and I am ready for more!