And then in the hottest week of August I got fast. Okay, fast is relative. But if you compare where I was a few months ago to this week, you could be an Olympic runner and would still call me fast—compared to myself, which is the point of running. I have dubbed this The Most Important Week of My Running Life. There are many reasons for that but most of them revolve around working full time again and having as very full life I have not had since I began running. And I started it with a bang.
After PRing in a 5K race Saturday, I haven’t let up. If you ask me how fast I run, I generally won’t tell you—because it’s not about numbers and I don’t like arbitrary assignments. I am not “fast” by competitive definitions. I won’t win anything more than an age group place in a very small local race—if that. I am not a speedster, and I don’t want to be dismissed by people who don’t actually know anything about running or who only know people who run at their speed. The 14 minute milers think you are bragging and the 8 minute milers think you are pokey.
You know what I am? I am me.
I am a committed and dedicated runner who has found life and breath in running when it left me other ways. And so when I say fast, I mean Susan got fast, not that Susan is a fast runner. And there is a decided difference. The great thing is the one that matters is the one where I got fast.
Sunday I ran faster than average for the weather, but slower than the race, more normal. Monday I went way faster. And yesterday I ran my fastest ever three miles on the road outside of a race, stunning myself.
Seriously, I had no idea how I did it. I ran a perfect 5K “casual” run, with negative splits (getting faster every mile). They were perfect splits too, like some crafted and coached run.
Last night I had two ballet classes, which I have decided make Wednesday a perfect rest day this semester. But I had a bit of a hard time after ballet last night. And then this afternoon as well. And so I coped the only surefire way. I don’t really have close friends I can call in most difficult times—people don’t talk on the phone much—most of them are so busy with their families, especially on evenings and weekends, which, like the rest of the world, are my only free times too. And I don’t even have casual friends I can go get yogurt with to kind of just muddle through stuff since I am brand new to town. So I did the only thing I know to do—I ran. Though my calves were crazy sore from pointe class and all those roll through-relevés, I decided I needed to go back to the gym.
I hadn’t done weights in over a week and I thought maybe a quick mile around the track would be a good idea, to see what I could do.
I had used Nike Plus on “indoor mode” last time I was at the track, and I was sure it was wrong, but as I read about it people said it did a good job, so I went to a treadmill first and checked them against each other. If anything, the app trailed ever-so-slightly behind the treadmill. It actually worked! So I took off—on the outside lane—there were people walking anyway, but the outside lane is for “Running” and the middle for ”Jogging.” Last time I did the jogging lane, out of respect for any real runners, but I decided a sub-10 minute mile counted as real running and tore off around the outside. The truth is, I think I went an extra lap, or at least part of one, but I stuck to the Nike readout. Nine minutes and six seconds.
Me. If I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have believed it. Never in a million thoughts did I think I could do that. It’s easier indoors—flat, rubberized surface, controlled temperature. I could not do that outdoors. Yet. But I had 10-something minute miles in my race Saturday—and it was USATF certified, so I know I am not fooling myself. That was a slightly hilly and very warm race. And I can always run indoors at least a minute faster, but still. Without question, I could pull off a sub 9-minute indoors at this point. But I want to break 10 outdoors.
People, I am 5 feet tall—and I am still “chubby.” Extra weight slows you down. That is a fact physiologically, the same way increased temperatures slow you down. People can get all know-it-all about running and how “they” don’t need to slow down or “they” used to run fast when they were fat or whatever they want but the facts don’t change (and those attitudes are dumb anyway because you can never compare two individual runners)—but you can argue physiology and that tells me when it is 50 degrees out and I weigh less, I will be faster, all other things equal.
When I started running I was carrying probably at least 40 extra pounds with me. You try to run down the road carrying four large sacks of potatoes on your back and tell me you are just as fast and I will laugh in your face. So what’s another 20 pounds or whatever going to do?
I don’t know how fast I will be able to be one day. Fast is definitely relative and I don’t have all the genetics that do determine some of it, but you can also defy genetics to some degree. Sub-2 hour half? I am not counting on it. 7 minute mile? Maybe in several months. I don’t have any idea.
All I know is that today I wanted to throw everything else out of my life besides running and just run—all the time. I ran 16 minutes miles a few times in January, 14 was pretty normal much of the time) and today I ran just about 9. Really? What could I do if I worked harder if this is what I did in the absolute hottest week in August. Maybe I ran indoors today but I didn’t run indoors the last few days.
I love running because you get out of it what you put into it. In relationships, for example, you may love and love and be rejected. Or you may want to care more than another person cares. In running, the more committed you are, the more it is welcomed. Running accepts what man rejects.
So in this week, The Most Important Week of My Running Life, I am proving what’s important to me. Simultaneously, I am coping with difficult personal change. Running is a miracle. Plain and simple. Sometimes I think there is too much to handle at once, and then I run, and I think, I can take this world on, me and my feet. By ourselves. I don’t need a friend to call or a gelato date, I just need Pink Magic.
Sometimes when I run, I believe it.