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’
Sunday, the Rusty Bicycle and (as predicted) 2:39.
This morning, the Rusty Bicycle and (somewhat surprisingly) 2:23.
When I wake up on Sunday or Wednesday morning, my first thought involves whether there’s any way on earth that I can rationalise not running. ‘Oh, it’s raining…’ ‘Oh no, there isn’t time…’ ‘Maybe a meteor will strike me…’ Yesterday morning my left knee was complaining when I woke up, and the pavements were wet (though it wasn’t actively raining or drizzling), and Margaret and Jennifer and I were planning to make an early start for the day, so I felt the temptation to just give the mile a miss this time.
On the other hand, I am constituted by duty as a leading element, and I’m particularly acutely aware of the value of keeping healthy, so I donned my trainers and set out for the mile. The knee turned out not to bother me, and though my breathing hasn’t advanced as much as I’d like (‘Why is that man making those gasping noises when he runs, Mummy?’), I did push my not-break-stride back to the Rusty Bicycle at the corner of Magdalen and Hurst. The rest of the mile went smoothly, though nothing exceptional stood out in my experience of it. And when I hit the ‘Stop’ button at the front gate, my time was 10:29 — almost ten seconds faster than any previous mile, and fifteen seconds faster than the plateau at which I’d been stuck.
I don’t assume that I won’t fall back, but it’s an encouraging advance toward a ten-minute mile, just as the corner of Magdalen and Hurst is an agreeable milestone (almost two-thirds of the way) toward taking the whole mile without stopping.
Back to 10:44. Not much to observe about the mile; I didn’t push not-break-stride (I stopped at the coffee roasters’), didn’t feel especially one way or another, just wasn’t very energetic.
Just when I thought I’d be stuck at the 10:44-ish plateau for a long time, I wrapped up my mile in 10:39 this morning. I felt heavy, not loose and limber (one experience I want to recapture is the feeling of just stretching out and running freely, if only for a few strides), and I let my not-break-stride point drop back to the intersection of Magdalen and Iffley, but the overall time seems not to have suffered from that.
We’ll see about Sunday.
Did I mention that I very strongly dislike running?
10:42 — yes, that sounds like a plateau. I felt all right most of the way, and pushed my don’t-break-stride mark to the 20 kph street sign on Hurst, but finished in the same general time as the last three or four miles.
Just leaving a marker here — another day with scintillating scotoma. Will look back and add previous dates.
Here we go: 5 June and 24 February, the last two. On a previous occasion, I told Ed Turnham ‘I experienced two of these as an undergraduate — the first while I was up late reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I ascribed to exhaustion and the intensity of the novel; and the second while I was driving at full speed on the motorway between Maine and Pennsylvania, at which time I narrowly avoided a catastrophic collision. Since there was no internet back then, I had no convenient explanation for the latter incident. I put it down to residual trauma from the assault I had experienced in secondary school, which included my face (and especially my left eye) having been clubbed. After those, I have no recollection of any specific recurrence until recently.’
This morning I pushed my did-not-stop till a few steps beyond the corner of Magdalen and Hurst, and I felt about as good as ever, and my final time was around 10:48 (maybe a little less, maybe more — I had trouble hitting the correct button to stop the timer). Still better than regressing, and I still hate running.
We’ve had some downtime here at Hermeneutics and Wheezing Central — possibly connected with a nasty bout of comment spam (‘Comment spam’? What is this, 2006?) — but things seem to be stabilising. Thanks again to Christopher for the hosting.
So, the last I remember posting a time, I was running a 10:46. I thought that was still slower than I had worked up to toward the beginning of the year, but no! I was hovering around 11:00 when I stopped due to the Health Scare, and now I’ve pared almost 15 seconds off that mark. I have hit a real plateau there — a 10:47, 10:46, and yesterday 10:48. That’s fine; I obviously can’t expect to improve by five or more seconds every go. The good news is that last Wednesday I pushed my not-break-stride mark all the way to the intersection of Magdalen Road and Hurst, well more than halfway. Now, yesterday I didn’t do nearly so well, falling into a walk somewhere around Magdalen and Iffley, maybe as early as Stanley. My lungs were the culprits, I think; my legs felt relatively limber. But I still lost only a couple of seconds from my current normal pace.
Anyway, I’m at a plateau for pace, but it’s a reasonable plateau given my history of motionlessness; and I’m improving my steadiness by fits and starts. Someday I will go the whole route without walking, and that will be a Great Thing.
Sunday I was very, very reluctant to get out of bed, and a good deal more reluctant to run my morning mile. I decided to compromise with myself: I would do a mile, but not press. I came in at 11:46 — a humbling rate, but at least I didn’t bail out altogether.
This morning I woke up feeling all right, loosened up with some rope-skipping and stretches, and successfully pushed my not-break-stride point to the point where Stanley Street joins Magdalen Road, and I had Hurst in my sights. A significant part of the distance I had a physical understanding of how it would feel to run, limber and adequately aerated, the whole way. Nothing revolutionary as a result, but I did come in at 10:48, a full minute faster than Sunday’s semi-effort.