A few weeks ago I wrote about the plateaus and potholes of running. I had made plenty of quick gains, but found that the going got a lot harder after that. However, I knew that I had to persist and that sooner or later, I would see improvements again.
Last Saturday morning I woke up at the usual 5 am. It was an effort – there is always a large part of me that wishes to stay in bed on a Saturday morning. But I know how important it is to keep going, so out the door I went.
As I walked out the front door, the familiar voice of Jim Morrison blared through my earbuds. He urged me to break on through to the other side. Yes, I know he was most likely referring to drug use, but in my immediate context I took it as a pep talk from the long-departed legend of rock. It was time for me to break on through – time to move off the plateau and run hard. There and then I decided to run an extra kilometre. For possibly the first time in my life, I would run six kilometres.
In the Beginning
It didn’t start so well. The first kilometre of my regular route is a steady uphill run. That doesn’t bother me anymore, but the strong wind blowing directly in my face did. I settled for a slow and steady pace. After all, I didn’t want to overdo it early and have nothing left in the tank for the final km.
As I reached the end of the first kilometre, a glance at my Fitbit Blaze told me that I was well off my desired pace of 5 minutes per kilometre. It didn’t matter though – today’s goal was all about distance.
From there, things got a little better. The ground levelled out and a was no longer running directly into the wind. I found my groove and I even began to feel good. My body felt stronger than it had during the period of plateau, and I was energised by the idea of pushing on for a sixth kilometre.
I had great tunes in my ear (a “classic rock workout” playlist – there’s nothing quite like feeling nostalgia for a period of time before you were even born) and the weather was perfect for running. The sun was beginning to rise and a vibrant sky gave me a further energy boost.
It is moments like that that I most enjoy about running. It’s incredibly peaceful (despite the physical exertion) and it’s one of the rare times in life when I feel fully in the moment. I sucked in some deep breaths and increased my pace slightly while being careful to not overdo it. I was determined to break on through and achieve something that I had never done before.
By the time I reached the steady downhill part of my run, I was flying (by my standards, at least). Another glance at my Fitbit Blaze told me that I was running at a pace under four-and-a-half minutes per kilometre. I knew that wasn’t sustainable on a flat track, but for that glorious downhill run it felt amazing! The months of disciplined exercise were definitely paying off. Despite the feeling of having plateaued, it was obvious that I was now much fitter than I had been for a long, long time.
As the ground levelled out I once again found my comfortable pace. I settled back in, but my mind began to wonder to bigger things. Specifically, the City2Surf.
I have written before about the great Sydney running event. It was once a brief fantasy of mine to give it a go, before an ill-thought-out attempt at “training” for it gave me a brutal reality check. I shelved the thought and hadn’t returned to it since.
But now things were different. I was much fitter. I knew I could run 5 kilometres easily. Maybe, just maybe, it was time to consider a larger goal.
Of course, the City2Surf isn’t a 5km run around my local streets. It is a challenging 14 kilometres. I could easily do it if I was willing to walk part of the track (as well as being a race, the City2Surf has a reputation as a great fun run/walk for families), but wouldn’t it be fantastic to say that I had run it from start to finish?
Back to Reality
As I approached the end of my usual 5 kilometre circuit, reality began to creep back in. To run the City2Surf would be the equivalent of my usual run, three times back-to-back (almost). The enormity of the task ahead of me dawned. That is a LONG run.
Still, I felt energised. I felt as if I had a goal that was attainable (even if it was ambitious).
I reached my usual end point, but instead of stopping I continued straight ahead. I still had plenty of energy and pushing on to six kilometres seemed like an adequate way to begin my training in earnest. The thought of trying for seven briefly crossed my mind, but the horrors of my first City2Surf training attempt were still fresh. I reminded myself that slow and steady wins the race. I have plenty of time before August, and success will rely on a sensible and structured approach to increasing my distance.
My sixth kilometre took me back up the same hill on which I started my run. Somehow I felt a little quicker, despite now being at the end of the run. My main problem was hydration. I don’t carry a water bottle with me when I run, and It was becoming apparent that six kilometres is my limit for running without water. I was uncomfortably thirsty and by the end of the sixth kilometre I had slowed significantly. Still, I was thrilled with the result. I had run the six kilometres at an average speed of under 5 minute per kilometre.
The Grand Plan to Break On Through
Fortunately the City2Surf is still 123 days, 10 hours, 33 minutes and 8 seconds away from starting (thanks to the handy countdown timer on their website). That gives me more than enough time to prepare. I plan to gradually increase my distance on my Saturday runs, while keeping my Monday run at a steady 5 kilometres.
As for my Thursday run, I am considering switching that to something a little different, either 3 kilometres flat-out, or interval training. I think this mix should help me to prepare for the big day.
The thought of completing one of the world’s great running events is an attractive one. This year might just be the year…