A Space of My Own

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves…The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, ‘You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable.”
-Sir Roger Bannister, first human to run a 4-minute mile

There’s something special about running intervals, especially in the dark.  It’s such a completely personal space, much like the one that Roger Bannister describes above.  It’s so personal, so real, so fraught with potential freedom, personal challenge, and opportunity to tap into your core.  Intervals are not the easiest thing to run; in fact, for me they’re sometimes difficult to motivate myself to do.  But intervals at night – that’s something special.  The air is quiet, the track is desolate, the lights may be shining but you’re the only one that can see you – and it’s just you and the track.  One lap at marathon pace – one lap jog.  For some reason I couldn’t wait to go faster  Two laps at 1/2 marathon pace, one lap jog, and wondering how awesome that 1/2 marathon would be if I ran it at that pace.  Three laps at 10k pace, one lap rest and wondering how I would ever get faster – and sustain it – for four laps (I was cheating and running faster than my real paces…because as Mr. Bannister says, the human spirit is indomitable).  Four laps at a blistering 5k pace –  1/3 of the actual race – and my legs are in overdrive and I want to run the whole 5k right now, alone, and see what I can do.  I follow the workout and take one more rest lap.  Then my heaven and hell combine in one line on the training plan – best 1-mile pace for 5 laps, or 1.25 miles.  Supposed to be hard – really hard – as I’m already 6 or 7 miles into my workout.  In my heart I wanted this one – feeling the wind and freezing rain come down on me makes me feel small, isolated, and like this is my own personal track in the middle of this giant city – a track where I can do pretty much anything.  I break off on my last interval – lap 1 in 1:40.  If I hold this, I’ll come in for 5 laps at 8:20, or a 6:40 mile pace – I haven’t done that in a while.  I want it.  Lap 2 and 3 slightly slower, averaging 1:43, lap 4 at 1:42 – I have time to make it up if I want that 6:40 pace, so I kick it into gear.  What a feeling – adrenalin rushing, nobody else out there, just me and my watch – how bad do I want it.  Final lap – 1:32.  Right on the nose.  5 laps in 8:20.  I collapse into a jog and a huge smile, knowing that I just got to know myself a bit better, and that I like that side of myself.  1 jogging lap done and I wish I had more intervals to do, but I start my drills anyways.  I want more, so I double my drills, and it hurts.  I finish drills, and I’m happy I doubled them, but I still want an interval.  So I take off with a sly grin, kind of tricking myself.  I hit the straightaway and a drop into a sudden, all-out dead sprint – 100 m. and jog…haha, tricked myself into another interval.  I jog the corner and now I HAVE to sprint the straightaway…it’s how this works.  I hit it again, I gas it straight through the line, and at 175 beats per minute I’m anaerobic and a bit more tired.  Ok, I’m ready now to wait for next time.  I gather my things and run the 20 minutes back home, thinking how much I loved being on the track at night – how it holds so much opportunity to listen to myself, to understand what I want and how I’m constructed, and how it helps me tap into a spirit that Mr. Bannister knows so well – this freedom-craving, indomitable spirit that only wants to run, and when you’re on a track running intervals by yourself at night, there’s really just one obvious, amazing, and completely personal outlet…to run.

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