I ran my mile this morning, cautiously, since I have had a vexing, lingering head cold and cough for more than two weeks (during which interval I forswore my exercise regimen). I set a very modest pace and planned to break at Magdalen Road, if I could get that far.
As it turned out, the break at Magdalen Road was the only break I took, which was encouraging since I’ve been able to pare away extra breaks over my past few runs. I’ll be very pleased if I can resume pushing my single break later and later in the run. Various muscles and joints protested mildly, but on the whole my body did its job very well, and the time came in at 11:24 (not good, but very good for my first day back, with an unambitious pace and chilly air).
I think I’m coming down with a cold, but I went ahead anyway — didn’t feel any worse than usual, ran in 10:42, and made only one pause. I pushed a half block past Aston Street.
Still only one break (this time I pushed it to Aston Street), time overall came in at 10:35. First quarter mile I was wondering why I was even out in the cold; second quarter mile I was thinking of my friends from Squirrel Hill and times I’d been to Tree of Life; third quarter I pondered the pace I had set and how soon I’d break stride; and the last quarter I was aching to get home and stop running.
Not my time, which was only 10:40, but my steadiness. I didn’t break stride until Leopold Street, again, and today this was my only break. That means I’m one break away from running the whole mile straight through.
Still wheezy, still gasping, but on the verge of running the whole mile. (And I’m eyeing Friday morning for a short sprint, perhaps 1/3 mile at my highest speed.
I pushed my don’t-break-stride back to Leopold Street, and broke only one other time (around Bullingdon), set a decent pace, and got home in 10:29. Very pleased to be cutting down the walking breaks, and although I’d rather be hovering around 10:00 flat, I’m making progress on steady running, and that’s good too.
It pretty much — but not quite — makes up for the young man who whizzed pass me at the start of my run, going faster than I ever can, without the laboured breathing that is my lot. I remain a bit concerned by my breathing; I don’t hear other runners wheezing and gasping as I still do. But I’m keeping at running, and that’s a great deal more for my lungs than I might be doing.
Everything resisted running this morning — my breathing was laboured, my shoulders felt heavy and weary, it was hard to pick up my feet (to be fair, my knees and legs in general were pretty cooperative, so not ‘everything’). I broke stride at Magdalene and Iffley, way earlier than I had been.
Still, I finished at 10:39, so I suppose that’s a good sign. On to Sunday —
Last Sunday — 10:44
Wedneday — 10:38
Today — I was about to take my run, but the rain picked up and I am not so dedicated as to get utterly soaked for my mile. Will put it off till Wednesday.
N-B-S: I allowed it to fall back to Leopold St.
Time: Set a faster pace, more gasping, but cut my time to 10:27.
Last Wednesday I learned something basic about running. That is, I already knew it in theory — but in a year of trying to run weekly, then twice weekly, my experience had been so variable and so rough that I hadn’t had the occasion to observe in practice the importance of pacing.
Wednesday I set out and felt all right, kept going, thought I could keep going steadily, and wound up pushing my not-break-stride point to Ashton Street. Then I only paused again once before finishing my mile, and I thought ‘Wow, this is bound to be a good time because I spent so little time walking.’ IOn fact, though, my time was 11:04 — a long way off my best time. I was able to keep running/jogging because I set a very leisurely pace.
So I thought that this week I would push my pace a little, but I didn’t want to lose ground on my not-break-stride progress. I did manage to get to AShton Street again, and I only paused once more, but my time again was disappointing — 10:59.
This is interesting to me, but all beside the point. My primary goal is to get the whole mile without breaking stride, at which point I can begin trying to improve the time. I still gasp and wheeze through most of the run, unlike the Spandex-clad real runners who breeze past me on the pavements of Oxford; someday, I hope, I’ll be able to run a mile in a decent time without gasping. Then I might — oh, I don’t know — I might think about a mile and a half!
Last Sunday — 10:29
Wednesday — 10:52
Today — 10:33
So, last Wednesday week looks like a fluke rather than a trend. No worries, there’s good news in the midst of the lapse. Last Sunday we’ll mark down as a regression to the mean — but at the same time I made it all the way to Leopold Street before breaking stride. Wednesday was a different story: I had spent most of Monday and Tuesday hefting and assembling a flat-pack daybed for our upcoming visitors. I couldn’t run past Magdalen & Iffley, I ached and gasped, and was (on the whole) glad merely to have completed the mile. This morning was more like last Sunday, except that today it’s raining and chilly. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d have done better in dry, warmer weather. ‘Dry’ we can expect, most of the time; it will be a while before I can realistically hope for warmer, though.
I took Sunday off — Saturday had been the Maginnis-Loves wedding and reception, which entailed a lot of standing and sitting and conviviality and eating odd things at unusual times — so that when I woke Sunday morning somewhat achey in joints and head, I determined to give myself the day off from running my biweekly mile.
So imagine my surprise this morning when I reluctantly (did I ever mention that I dislike running intensely?) clambered out of bed, squeezed my feet into my trainers, skipped rope for a short warm-up, and then ran the mile in 10:10! Not only is that my best time ever, coming after a Sunday on which I didn’t keep up my practice of biweekly running, it’s a 10-second improvement over last Wednesday, which was itself a 10-second improvement over my prior best. A ten-minute mile is now in sight, which would have seemed unthinkable even two months ago.
Moreover, I pushed my not-break-stride mark to… well, the landmark won’t mean anything to you, but it’s the garage beyond the Rusty Bicycle, beyond the 20 kph warning sign, from which somebody occasionally sells second-hand furnishings. I’d have liked to push on the extra few steps to Leopold Street, but that was not in the cards. My legs felt good — I run with the constant recollection of years when ‘running’ meant just stretching out your legs, applying some energy to operating them, and zooming along for a hundred or so metres. Those days are long gone after decades of my not resisting academic couch-potatosity — but if I recall them now when I gasp and totter along my route, the hope that sometime I may be able to run the whole mile, and that someday I may recapture the limberness, the lung power, and the vitality to just give a joyful sprint for a short distance sometimes appears in my heart and gives me a wee booster shot of capacity.
‘You know I just can’t free you now —
That’s not my job at all’…
— Van Morrison, ‘Street Choir’