We have to talk about pace – again.

I have been quietly seething about 2 running related things. Sometimes it takes me a while to realise just how pissed off I am with something but today I realised that I have been seething for a little while.

I think I probably realised because I was quite happy with my pace today. We went for a run at Bolton Abbey. My watch didn’t play. It wouldn’t lock onto satellites and wouldn’t let me start the timer. So the stats from the run are from Kath’s watch – but we ran the same course, started at the same time and finished at the same time which means I ran 4.5 miles in 59.38 on a hilly course. That’s elapsed time not some funny strava hocus pocus which measures the moving time. The previous best elapsed time on that route is 1.03.33 (and spookily a moving time of 59.38). So yeah, I was pleased that the watch confirmed that the route had taken just under an hour. Very pleased indeed. The average pace was 13.20 minutes per mile. Most people would call that slow. I have called that slow, but for this route, on this day, I was bloody happy with that.

This afternoon our new wall planner for training plans and races came so we were putting on the runs we’ve booked in pen and ones we’re thinking about in pencil. A couple of weeks or so ago we had looked at the Haspa Hamburg Half Marathon which would be at the end of April 2018. It’s a nice route, we could stay at my Dad’s and combine the run with a family visit. It’s been ages since we’ve been to Hamburg. It would be fun. Well I thought it would be fun until I saw that the time limit is two and a half hours. TWO AND A HALF HOURS. Two and a half hours from gun time, too – not from when you cross the start line. That’s 11.27 minute miles – not just once but for 13.1 miles consistently and if you can sustain that you’ll still come last(ish). So to make sure of finishing within the time I’d basically have to run 2 minutes per mile faster than I did today. Maybe this shouldn’t piss me off. Maybe that’s fine. Half marathons are for people who can, you know, actually run. But it does piss me off. Half marathons shouldn’t be so bloody elitist. There is no reason to have that cut off time as far as I can see. The marathon runners use some of the same route so it needs to stay open anyway. The marathon starts later so the finish etc all needs to still be open – and if it’s a different finish, well then maybe the route needs to be different so that it is the same finish. Would it really be such a big deal to stay open for longer? I mean really? And how much longer? Well, until the last person has finished might be an idea. Or at the very least let people complete the course on the pavement – here the info actually says you will be asked to move off the course and remove your running number and can’t complete. Gee thanks.

Anyway, that made me think of something I saw the other day on my run. The one where I ran to Bingley 5 Rise Locks and Kath went a bit further – actually I don’t think I blogged about it in any detail. While I was waiting for her to come back a group of school kids arrived on the canal. I paid no attention for some time, trying to block out the constant noise from the little voices. However, it went quiet which made me look up and they’d all disappeared for a little run down the canal. Fine. Then they obviously came back because the volume went up again. I was getting a little cold so I was pacing up and down. One of the teachers said, ‘right, last interval’ and then looked at the last 3 or 4 kids who had only just made it back and said ‘Well you just run as far as you can and we’ll collect you on the way back’. It was so dismissive. He then set off with the front runners, another teacher went with a middle lot and the teacher who was obviously meant to be the back marker couldn’t even be bothered to run with the slow kids. He just sent them on their way and then played on his phone. They didn’t go far before the first of the fast kids were coming back at them and the teacher turned them around and said something – no idea what but the body language of the slow kids changed as they plodded their way back to us and were overtaken by the kids who had run further than them. They hated it. I could see how much they hated it. I felt like giving the teachers a mouthful. I really did. Everything they said and did must just have been so demotivating for those slow kids. They were ignored and  dismissed, nobody said ‘well done’ when they got back to the group, nobody asked how far they’d got, nobody acknowledged their effort (and they had put in some considerable effort judging by their colour and huffing and puffing). The teachers were all engaging with the faster runners and as I decided not to wait any longer but let Kath catch up with me and therefore started my little jog past the group, two of the teachers gave me the same look they’d given the slow kids. I smiled at them, because of course, I am a slow kid and in my own small way I wanted them to know that slow kids have just as much of a right to be doing their thing. Over the last few days though I keep coming back to that dismissive tone of ‘just run as far as you can and we’ll collect you on our way back’. Kath was collecting me on the way back but our conversation had been entirely different in tone. It made me feel good about running my distance and allowing her to run hers. It acknowledged that we could both push ourselves a little that way and as soon as she caught up with me we had a conversation about our respective runs.

The teachers and the other kids just didn’t seem to think that those 3 or 4 slower kids were worth their time or acknowledgement. How dare they be so dismissive.

How dare they.

Magic Mile Benchmark

Kath has drawn up a new plan for us to get us ready for the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double in October. It’s a plan made for me that takes into account all my insecurities, weaknesses, obsessions, abilities and goals. The plan really started today – with 45 minutes steady including a Magic Mile.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned the Magic Mile before – ah yes I have here – but the basic idea is that you run as fast as you can at as even a pace as you can manage for one mile. The time you get is your Magic Mile time which can be used to predict race pace fairly accurately but more importantly for me, also shows progress quite nicely. I have a constant need to be patted on the head and told I’m doing well with running (funny, I don’t care in any other context) and the Magic Mile sort of does that as long as I run consistently and space them out sensibly. There are some 45 minute steady runs in the plan, some 45 minute runs with hill repeats built in or with surges etc, then there are the weekend long runs and the odd fartlek session.  We’ll see how we get on.

So run 1 of the programme was to go out for 45 minutes and as part of that do a Magic Mile. We set off and ran down to the canal and when we had done one mile upped the pace for the magic mile. Here’s how those first two miles played out (Kath was there but the dialogue is mostly mine – in my head).

  1. Happily jogging down Ilkley Road
  2. Turned left, still down hill, happy
  3. Glanced at watch – ‘ooh speedy’
  4. Happy
  5. What do you mean ‘ooh speedy’ – you’re supposed to be going slow
  6. Meh – shut up. I’m happy
  7. On the canal now, ‘hm, not going downhill anymore now, bit harder’
  8. Kath said we were at 0.8miles. I glanced at my watch and giggled ‘oh fuck, I’m already running at roughly what I thought might be sensible for the Magic Mile – 11.30 pace
  9. Kath: ‘And go’
  10. ‘Speed up legs, come on on, you can do it’
  11. Legs: Ok
  12. Lungs: ‘Fuck off’
  13. Kath – a quarter done
  14. Legs: Yay; Lungs: Fuck; Brain: a quarter? are you sure? Must be more. Lungs: Yes must be more
  15. Dogs in the way, dogs in the way, DOGS IN THE WAY, ok past the dogs
  16. Lungs: You have gone mad, you have to stop
  17. Legs: No – we’re fine (Lungs: Weren’t talking to you, legs)
  18. Half way
  19. ‘I wonder how slow this is’ – look at watch – doesn’t mean anything – shows average pace not current pace. Bollocks, stupid fucking piece of fucking junk
  20. Brain: ooh sweary, you’re fine, keep going
  21. Kath said something about doing well. Lungs: WTF, doing well, I mean seriously, Have you heard us?!
  22. Kath: 3/4 done, you can do this
  23. Legs (very quietly): We’re not sure we can. We feel a little wobbly now
  24. Lungs (screaming): STOP
  25. 0.8
  26. 0.81, 0.82, 0.85  – ‘wait, what? What happened to 0.83 and 0.84?
  27. 0.9. Legs and Lungs in unison – WILL YOU JUST FUCKING STOP NOW
  28. PLEASE
  29. Kath: You’ve done it!
  30. I resist the urge to curl up and die and walk instead, slowly

We make our way up the golf course, feed Dino and then set off back but Kath’s knee is a little niggly so rather than risking it we walk home. 3.6 miles to add to the total and a Magic Mile benchmark set at 10.34.

My next run will be in Seahouses and running did not go well there last time (I just looked and I don’t think I blogged about it fully – it was horrendous, worst ever in my journey and I nearly gave up running completely after that weekend – I should share that properly in another post!). Anyway, I have some demons to kill and a beach to conquer!

Getting out the door…

Getting out the door is hard. I’ve been  quite good at not getting out there door recently. Usual excuses, too tired, no time, too close to having eaten, not hydrated…. yeah yeah yeah.

So since Endure24 I have been out twice. The first time was miserable and slow and I was grumpy and I had to put in walk breaks for no real reason. I’ve been quite excited about running as long as I don’t actually have to run. I like thinking about running, planning running, booking races, reading about running. I look forward to running – right up until I actually have to run. Yesterday was another one of those days – I’d been looking forward to getting out for a run all day and then I got home and just couldn’t be bothered.

However, Kath had laid out my running gear and nudged me out the door. I was only going to feed our ram – so just about 3/4 of a mile there and the same back. I set off. I felt pretty good. One of those rare runs when everything comes together immediately. When I got to the bottom of Ilkley Road where I turn right I glanced at my watch and realised that I was going much much faster than I have for a long time – for well over a year probably and even then I never ran at the pace I was running consistently. In short, for me I was going at a ridiculous speed. It’s a steady pace for others but I was stunned – my watch most definitely said 10.12 minute mile pace. I started up the hill and glanced at my watch again – obviously I had slowed up the hill but I was still well under 11 minute pace and I decided that as I was only going to Dino’s field I would just keep pushing, just keep trying to stay under 11 minute pace. My lungs started protesting as I reached the last little push up the slope, my legs threatened to slow down but then I turned left and started the downhill and everything settled down. I kept running, reached the field and stopped the watch – 10.24 pace 0.8 miles. I got my breath back, fed Dino and had a little chat with him (he’s a talkative sheep) and started thinking about the way home.

The way I had just run is downhill  – a longish gentle downhill, then a slightly steeper uphill, short down, flat, short down and flat/slightly uphill to the field. The way back is the reverse and it’s harder. The uphills are tougher and I can’t remember the last time I managed to run it. In fact I think I have only managed to run the up section of Ilkley Road a handful of times. So my aim for the way back was to run it all – never mind the pace, just keep running.

I set off – it wasn’t at all conformable initially, the breathing wasn’t quite right, no rhythm. Then the short sharp slope came and I remembered a line from one of the running books I read, maybe in Running Free (Richard Askwith), that was something like: ‘Head down, small steps and wait for the summit to come to you’. And miraculously it did. I didn’t think I could keep running, I wondered if I should switch to intervals and then thought that was just too easy. I could see a friend’s van parked about 30 metres away and decided I’d run to that and if I still thought I needed a walk I could walk then. I passed the van and kept going enjoying the brief moment of flat.

Then the road started sloping gently uphill, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you’ll get there I thought. The slope gets steeper but I didn’t really notice. I was at the top before I’d had time to worry about it. I turned right and got my breath back on the downhill. I knew the toughest bit was yet to come. Ilkley Road is just a bitch. It doesn’t look like that much of a slope but it’s just relentlessly unpleasantly uphill.   I turned into the road. I felt ok. I didn’t dare look at my watch. I presumed I had slowed to actual snail’s pace. I was struggling now but the Pub had just come into view and there were people sitting outside. I’m too much of a stubborn bugger to walk while the people sipping their pints can see me so I kept going, one foot in front of the other. A few steps past the pub I glanced at my watch, 11.55 pace. Wow. I presumed I had been going much slower and that the overall average pace would have dropped to slower than that. I wondered if I could keep it under 12 minutes. I took a deep breath and pushed. As the road curves to the left and steepens a little I knew I wouldn’t make the hill, my legs were like jelly but I didn’t want to give up so I turned into the road before ours and picked up the pace further as I went down the slope. I stopped at the footpath linking this road to ours.

I stared at my watch. I couldn’t quite believe it. Given how my running has been going recently, I was beginning to resign myself to the number at the front of my average pace stats always being 13 or higher – whatever the distance. I wasn’t massively happy about that but just figured that was what it was. The number on my watch said 11.46. 11.46!

Getting out the door was worth it and I’m just going to leave that there: 11.46

Let’s talk about pace

Yes, let’s. Better talking about it than actually doing anything about perhaps increasing my own! Pace is a thorny issue with running isn’t it. It’s all soo relative. I was talking to someone the other day who told me she’d got home after a 5km and realised she’d done it in 32 minutes and was ecstatic and then her husband went and came back all grumpy because it had taken him just over 30 minutes and he said it was his slowest ever… Hm, Pace.

So, rewind a little bit. I should explain what triggered this post. I was looking at information about the sports facilities offered at the university I now work at. I came across information about the running club and noted with interest that the focus was on beginners and intermediate runners. I liked that. I’d never go of course- it’s a running club, not something for me – it’s for, like, proper runners…

Anyway, I was pleased that the institution I am now affiliated with included beginner runners. And then I read on. If you’re a beginner, the running club, it appears, runs roughly 3 miles at roughly an 11-12 minutes per mile pace. A whole wave of thoughts hit me all at once.

  1. 11-12 minutes per mile is not beginner pace
  2. I’m not a beginner
  3. I’m slower than that most of the time
  4. I don’t think I’m a beginner
  5. So moving from beginner status is just about getting faster?
  6. Oh – I’ll be a beginner forever
  7. What would happen if I went?

I’ve not been running that long, there’s lots I don’t know about running but I’m not a beginner. At some point since Dopey my perception of me as a runner shifted. I’m still not really a runner, never will be BUT I’m not a beginner.  I don’t see myself as a runner at all but I also don’t see myself as a beginner. It’s odd. But according to that pace guidance I’m not even at beginner level. I might be able to hold that pace for 3 miles on a good day but I couldn’t be sure. I have done a mile in under 10 minutes – once.

Anyway, it made me think about pace and running and what that all means. And it’s not so much the groups that are problematic – having an 11-12 minute mile groups is great- lots of place don’t have that and the slowest is 10 minutes. I think the problem is the labels given to the groups. You see I might never get to intermediate – which would be 10 minutes per mile sustained over 5-6 miles. I might however get to be a very experienced runner who knows what works for her and what doesn’t, who can put together a sensible training plan to achieve her goals, who can work on increasing her pace, her distance and her pace over specified distances. In fact I think I am making good progress towards that.

So actually the problem is labelling running groups as beginner, intermediate etc. You could never have really run but find out that actually you are naturally pretty speedy or you could  have been running for years and years but never really get much faster – either because you are happy at your pace or because you’re focussed on something else or because it is just not going to happen. Every now and again I get frustrated that the chances of me getting much faster are slim to none but mostly that’s ok. I know I can get a little faster if I train and work on it but it won’t be by much. Mostly that’s ok. Pace is relative. What is fast for me is painfully slow for someone else.

So, rant over. Run at whatever pace you want, you can and let’s outrun those labels that always seem to come with a hint of judgement. As for the running club, I was never planning on going anyway…