Back On Track
In March, I wrote about how I returned to the track at the local college to resume my training, for what it’s not entirely clear. Just before covid hit, I was aiming for a probably unrealistic five-minute mile, but I was 48 then, and I’m 51 now. I also snapped my hamstring a few weeks later while trying to finish a 200 meter sprint and had to take a few months off. I went back for a few weeks in May and June, but then it was summer, and I was traveling.
Now I’m back in earnest, and I’ve got a slightly different plan. The last two times, I've run a torturously slow mile and a half (I’m talking 12:30 pace), to warm up, get a sweat going and a feel for the distance. Then I walk one lap around the track, after which I run a sub 1:30 quarter mile (six-minute mile pace.) Today I ran a 1:22, which is a 5:30 mile, and 400 meters was enough.
The idea is always to do a slow warmup half mile to a mile, then a second mile that’s also slow, but maybe 12:00 minutes next week, 11 or 10 before long. I don’t want to push it at all on the mile run, I don’t want to feel it. My thought is just by getting used to it, I should be able to cut that to nine or nine and a half with no effort and eventually faster than that.
At the same time, I’ll be working on the other end, extending the 400 meter run at the six-minute pace to 450, then 500, then 550. I’ll be slowly building up the distance on the fast run, while cutting down the time on the slow one. But the key is to do it incrementally, so it’s almost painless. It’s not that I can’t endure pain, it’s that I know I’ll choose to avoid it eventually and give up. That, or I’d have to slave-drive myself to an extent the end would not justify the means.
The running is good (especially the fast portion) for my health, but I’m not trying to become a health guru. I am not really a runner and have no expertise in physiology or athletic training. I’m just running experiments on myself, seeing what’s possible, fucking around and finding out.
One thing I know almost for certain is that I need to run at least one mile and probably two or three at a slow pace before I can consider running a fast one. I don’t know if that’s because I had “exercise-induced asthma” as a kid or there’s something odd about my physiology, but when I was in my 20s I remember jogging super slowly in Central Park for what must have been a few miles and by mile five or six feeling like I was flying for much longer than I thought possible, as I wasn’t a runner or in great shape.
It takes a lot of patience to run that slowly for 30 minutes though, and after microfracture surgery on my ankle in 2009, I can only tolerate the track (or beach) and can’t do a lot of miles without it acting up, so I probably won’t have as long of a warmup as I’d like. In fact, this will probably fail for one reason or another. But that’s okay — no one ever regretted exercising.