You don’t need to race to enjoy running, in fact I’m sure there are some people out there who find more joy in the sport without the push of the competitive side interfering with their hobby. Indeed, although I just called it a sport, it is a hobby as well. It is both, for me, but could be one or the other for you. A professional athlete may well love running, but it’s not their hobby if it’s their job, is it? And for a more casual runner it may well be a hobby, but not necessarily a sport. You might even be a very regular, very good, fit runner who doesn’t consider your daily running habit to be a sport at all – it’s just that thing you do to keep yourself sane, happy, and to free up some extra calories for weekend indulgences.
For me, I find my joy by combining the two. I like pissing off to the woods and disappearing for an hour without a care for what the run is doing for my body, it’s just something I like to do. On the other hand, I do like the sporty, competitive side of it. Having races on the calendar has sparked some excitement in my training again, and although the idea of transforming into some long haired running explorer of the wild is tempting, the thought of those nervous moments before the start of a race: the fumbling of safety pins through vest numbers; the desperate queue for the loos; the aching countdown on the start line; have kept my mind focused on being an athlete over some sort of meandering philosopher.
From a simple training perspective, having a race on the calendar has allowed me to get more specific. Tuesdays remain Speed Day, Thursdays or Fridays are Hill Day, and Sundays have become about longer effort progressive runs which end with a lung bursting slide towards 10k race pace to get my legs turning over at that specific race day effort to ensure that I’m as confident as possible going into my first race in god-knows-how-long.
For example: this week I started the progressive run with a 7:19 mile, and moved things forwards until I went through mile 6 in 6:13. Ideally I would be running a little bit longer, but I had to get to work so made do with the time that I had. As intended after mile 6 I jumped the pace up, hitting 5:28 pace for 0.3 of a mile. This is definitely more my 5k pace (maybe even a little quicker) than my 10k pace, but I see it as a positive that I felt good enough to switch the speed up like that. With that little burst done I finished with 3 x 200m (roughly, I was using electric poles as markers) in 31, 29, 29, to tie up a good session. I love ending a run like that with strides, they’re not super demanding on the body but it can surely only do you some good to hit that high turnover, combining endurance with speed.
With the 10k now only three weeks away, this week is definitely about hitting peak mileage, and banking some quality, probably pretty gruelling, sessions. I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m counting on the alluring pull of race-day excitement to get me through.