“You stink. Go. Now! Take a shower.”
This is my wife talking to me after I got home this morning from doing something I wasn’t sure I would be able to do – Running on a track.
Look, I know I’m beating a dead horse with this talking about running thing. Just recently, I talked about my virtual running and I’ve talked about it in terms of setting (and accomplishing) goals. But almost all of my running has been at the gym, on the treadmill. My preferred settings are a 3% incline and a pace of 6.5km per hour. This lets me complete my run in, on average, 45 minutes or so, running just under a 15 minute mile (~9 minute kilometer). And when I go to the gym, I drive (it was walking distance from our old place, but car or bus is needed from the new one) and I take my gym bag, which means I change my clothes and shoes and what have you when I get there, do my sweaty business, and then change back for the ride home.
As soon as I get there, sure, my sweaty gym clothes go right into the wash (and wow, I do sweat a lot – not sure why it’s so much, but there you have it). I’ll shower and get on with my day. For some reason, I only go to the gym in the mornings. Yes, it’s a 24hr place, rare in Lithuania, but I don’t like going when it’s crowded and come evening, I’m tired, so mornings it is.
Anyway, across the street from our place is a university, KTU, which actually sports a full campus, complete with sports area. Including a track. I’ve been saying I should go to that track and try my hand at running outside, just to see what it was like. Today, I did.
Unlike the gym, I dressed in my workout clothes to leave the house, filling my water bottle and strapping my iPod to my arm with one of those clever arm band things. I like to listen to something while I’m running – no zen approach of silence for me. Then I walked over to the track.
This is not a well maintained area by any stretch. The football (soccer) pitch in the middle had fresh-ish boundary markings, but the running area was overgrown and pockmarked. Still, it would suffice for what I wanted to do. I set my water bottle down, did a few minutes of stretching, and headed off down the long side of the 400m oval.
See, one of the things I like about running on the treadmill is I have a set pace. As long as that belt is going under me, I know that a) I have to keep running and b) that running will happen at a consistent speed. Not so when I’m on my own on the track. Yes, I have my Endomondo app running, ticking off the kilometers as I pass them, but that doesn’t do anything for my speed. Maybe there’s a click-track app out there, or maybe that’s why people listen to specific music, to get the beats right (shout out to my old friend Steven R. Boyette here, hope he’s well). Either way, I tried to use my muscle memory to run at the same pace I run when I’m at the gym.
I had no idea how I was doing until the first kilometer clicked by and I’d set a pace of 6 minutes 5 seconds. Woah! That was amazing. I figured out where my mile marker was and clocked that at 10:04 – fastest I’d run a mile, in years. maybe ever. Granted, I couldn’t keep up that pace…and I didn’t. After the second kilometer, I knew there was no way I was going to run the entire distance, but that wasn’t the point, at least not really. So I ended up taking short breaks, walking for a bit to catch my breath before starting to run again. Even my slowest kilometer doing this, the 4th, was faster than my regular gym pace (at the gym, I do run the whole distance) and I finished with my fastest 5k time ever, nearly 8 minutes off my normal pace.
And when I got home, still wearing the same clothes, I was ripe. Leading to the directive Rasa gave me that I mentioned at the top of this. That picture there at the top? Those are my shoes, being hung out the window to dry and de-scent. But what does all this mean? I don’t know. I know it means that next time there’s an actual, physical run in my area, I’m confident I can complete it in a timely manor, even if I have to pause and walk a little bit. It also means I’m getting better at this. Yesterday, on our family day, I paced Monki while she was on her scooter and while it was only short distances, I wasn’t winded at all. Being able to keep pace with her is a great feeling, especially for an older guy like me.
I’ll still go to the gym, but the track or street doesn’t scare me anymore. Maybe some more nature running is in my future. But I do know I’m not stopping anytime soon. Virtual or real, I have a feeling running 5ks are now part of who I am.