Elementary, my dear runner.

Posted on: 05 Feb 2021

Morning all.

Well, as I sit and type the weather is, for the time of year, positively clement.  And that is of course why today is a rest day.

Yesterday was run day, and yesterday was rain day too.  All day, incessant, inclement.  To make matters worse, the run in question was the least favourite.  To continue with the “in” prefix – infamous intervals.

Now, I can hardly say that the running I have done over the last few years has been lazy.  If you count miles covered, metres climbed, marathons and ultras completed, it has been anything but lazy.  Ah, but then if you count focussed hill efforts, they would be fewer and further between – sure, I do hills but I have been doing them as an ultra trail runner does them.  In other words, they have been walked.

So there is an element of laziness about the hills – walk ‘em.  Of course it helps with self-preservation when you’ve got 30, 40, 50 miles to cover; maintaining energy levels is crucial.  Walking them also gives you time to take on much needed sustenance; too many times before I have learnt the hard, hard lesson that comes with the running (or, by then, walking) equivalent of the cyclist’s bonking – let me tell you that retching due to absurdly low energy levels is no fun ever, but it becomes even more debilitating when the light is fading and you have 10 miles left to move.

This theme of laziness then continues to intervals; excluding two weeks’ ago, when was the last time I did interval work?  Well, I’m not sure but I reckon it could have been in preparation for the 2016 Brighton Marathon.  Park Run helped with speed work to a degree of course too; at Chipping Sodbury, I would always aim to make each of the three laps faster than the one before; at any Park Run, there is always that element of competition that comes with having runners around you.  For a year now, there has been no Park Run either and that means that the pace has withered on the vine.

And so, with the added “bonus” of age as well, there has been a gradual but very steady decline in any speed that I ever had – I look back on some of the runs I used to do and marvel at how fast I used to be able to make these tree trunk legs move.

This all means that I needed to embrace the inclement weather and get out and do those intervals that I had promised (threatened?) myself with.  This new found desire was all brought about by a Zoom meeting hosted by Centurion Running a couple of weeks ago, where they talked about making marginal gains.  I also reminded myself of a well-known quote;

“if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Now, what I have got before is some success of course; CW102 is and always will be one large feather in my cap.  But since those days of 2015 I have tried and failed twice to conquer that route once more.  So things need to change.

As to the runs?  Well, I had a decent warm up and then embarked on 20 x 2 min efforts, with 30 sec recovery for each.  Beech Lane was the chosen location for this – the way the wind was blowing had a choice that always combined a good and a bad.  I could go gently downhill but into the wind and rain, or gently uphill and with the wind at my back.  Let me tell you the former was most definitely easier than the latter.

As always with intervals, I marvelled as I discovered quite how long two minutes is when you are hanging on for those bleeps that mean that the effort is coming to an end and the respite of 30 seconds of walking is just 5 seconds away.

And there comes the Sherlock Holmes link really.  We’re a bit late to the Cumberbatch Sherlock party, and have only watched three so far.  The most recent one had Moriarty playing games via stooges who had bombs attached to them, and the bleeping countdown of the talking clock each time.  I felt like one of those stooges as I was waiting for the Garmin countdown to commence each time.  Slowly, like the great detective solving a case, the number of efforts I had left to do diminished, the end to my puzzle of pain grew closer.  I was pleased enough with the times by the end; maybe there’s life in this old dog yet!

Were those times like those of yore?  Ah well, no.  The only thing that was consistent with those pacey days of the past was the loathing I felt for intervals at all.  But are they here to stay?  Sadly, yes I think so.  As much as I loathe them, I also respect them in a way that I always hate seeing certain players lining up against Gloucester or England; you know they will do a job, you know they are always effective.  And so, in that loathing, there is a helluva lot of respect too.

And, of course, they have to stay because I still think back to those glory days when I did manage The Way.  I am now 6 years older, 52 now, but clearly no wiser.  A wiser man would look back fondly on those efforts and just run for fun.  I’m not built that way – not yet, certainly, and perhaps never will be.

I need to therefore strive for those marginal gains to help me make the difference.

That, my friends, is elementary…

Tell us your story

Inspire and be inspired by sharing your health or fitness journey. Your blog will provide you with a permanent record of your progress, with the added bonus of motivation and encouragement from our members along the way.

* Manage my blogs