Wednesday, March 30, 2016


They are moments of quiet, those resting seconds before the next lap, when your body is settling down from a near-heaving state that breathing almost feels normal. Instead of panic, you feel calmness and as your stride cadence picks up, you hit the lap button, and then it begins. The work is ahead of you. Time or distance, there is something you're counting down to or running up towards before your next round, before the next rest.

The resting period between intense efforts is how we actually define intervals. We aim for consistency as we hit each one, even generating more power as we hit the final sets.

The rest period is a body reset. It shields you from red lining, while helping you create bulwarks, those fortifications against fatigue.

Sometimes, the rest period lasts for a minute or two. This pause I've taken here has been necessary. But, as with all running, you have to start again.

UntitledLast year, after running Boston, I felt that I needed a reset. I had just put two of the most intense years of training behind me and was a stronger runner at 41 than I was at 30 when I took up long distance running. The summer, I went through the motions, but nothing was firing properly. That interval of time taught me a lot of lessons. By end of the year, after a dismal Philadelphia Marathon, I felt like I took enough of a pause. I was ready to hit restart.

In the interim months, I've rebuilt myself. I took up spin again, I hit the track, didn't miss a quality workout, reconciled what my schedule and work and life priorities could make room for my running. I battled through two colds, showed up to practice and trusted that I could peak at the right time.

Running is not as simple as you think it is, and a lifetime spent running only presents you with unexpected turns. We talk about the rush of improvement, the attainment of goals or lowering times, the serenity that you look to return to. We relish the alone time in this never pausing world, yet flock to the groups that give us community.

The laps we run and the intervals we take -- measured in kilometres or time -- slowly start to become much longer markers. Weekly mileage, monthly buildups, seasonal cycles and race calendars. In between the laps come moments of exhaustion and exhilaration, a neat combination that you may feel on the couch after that penultimate marathon training long run.

The most euphoric moments of running -- often happening at the end of a gut-busting workout or moments after you let the newly acquired hardware dangle from your neck -- can lead to the next natural yet opposing thought. What's next?

It's not lost on me that 10 years ago, I was training for my first marathon and in a little more than two weeks, I'm running by 32nd. What gave you motivation for the next run in your first 1,000 miles is a world of difference 10,000 miles later.

And when those intervals drag out, it give us pause for reflection. When us runners deal with aging, with hitting training plateaus, or just finding ourselves with life and or other passions demanding attention, just as the run does, it's easy to put that interval between laps in the rearview mirror.

The period of rest gives me perspective and as my run streak approaches 850 days, I've come to the conclusion that I want to run long, and for a long time. I want to run fast, but within the limitations of what a reasonable mid-pack runner can achieve when life beckons. What I love most about running is that it gives back what you put back in, and right now I'm good putting in the work.

A proper interval workout, in my book, is one where you are consistent, strong, and as fast if not as faster at the end of the workout. Quite simply, you are doing the work when you do them all, not going out in a blaze of glory after two of five sets. The final set is as important as the first, and a springboard to the next day, the next workout -- benefits you'll see down the road.

I can see down the road. I'm counting down the seconds, hitting the lap. To this day, finding pace is exhilarating, and chasing after the better version of myself is a path worth pursuing.



Unknown said...

Great post.

However I dont see you as a middle pack runner ... You are faster that that !

Kara Niclasen said...

More like an elite mid packer.

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