Today I ran on an outdoor track for the first time. My kids wanted to be able to ride their bikes on pavement rather than our freshly re-graveled (is that a word?) road. So their bikes were loaded into the van and we headed to the local high school where they could ride around the building and parking lot ( yes, this was very exciting for them) and my husband and I could go for a run on the gravel track.
I have never run on a track before. To be honest, it seemed like only a slightly better idea than a run on a treadmill. Running an oval over and over for 10k seemed a little ridiculous. But I discovered an amazing thing about tracks…they are really, really flat. Yes, technically I knew that. But as an all season outdoor runner, my idea of flat is anything that doesn’t have obvious large hills. The reality is every outdoor route I do, even those I consider to be flat, has elevations changes. I really didn’t realize just how many changes there were in my “flat” routes until I got on a track.
My husband and I ran 4k together which probably pushed me to run a little faster than I would normally for the beginning of a 10k run. He finished up at the 4 and I continued on. By 5k I was feeling good and I started to realize that on this flat surface I just might beat my best 10k time of 56:13. I picked up the pace a bit and continued to feel good. I made sure to change my direction every few km’s thinking perhaps 10k in one direction would not be good for me. I don’t actually know if that is true, like I said I have no track experience. As I was getting to the last few km’s I was pretty sure I was going to go sub 56 minutes. I couldn’t remember what pace I would need for that so I decided to just keep moving forward and increase my speed when I could. You can’t imagine my shock – actually if you are a runner you probably can – when I finished the 10k and looked at my watch to find a time of 53:56. I hadn’t just beaten my record, I had smashed it!!! And this was the day after doing hill repeats. If only it had been at a race, I would love to have that time in my official stats! I also had my fasted km; my 10th km came in at a 4:59 pace.
The best part of this for me is that it happened in the middle of marathon training. When I was training for my first marathon last fall I was very disappointed with how slow my running became. I felt like I had sacrificed anything resembling speed for the sake of distance. Much of that was due to injuring my ITB halfway through training. Once it healed I made the decision to simply work on endurance and nothing else. This time around though I have been able to increase my speed while working on endurance. I have no idea if it will have any effect on my marathon time – I still think of a marathon as something to simply survive, hopefully without throwing up or passing out (or at least not doing either until after the finish line). But I do know right now I am a stronger runner and if I were doing a 5 or 10k race in the immediate future I could probably set a few records for myself.
Today has definitely given me a boost in confidence. It has also served as a good reminder to not always play it so safe. I am always worried about pushing too hard too early, but at some point you have to take some risks and see what you can achieve. It won’t always work, but when it does, it feels amazing!