RUNNING WITH THE KENYANS 4
This sadistic sport – 2nd January 2016
We’re an odd bunch, runners. Pain and exhaustion, somehow, is a perfectly acceptable trade-off in this relentless pursuit of improvement. We compete with everything around us, including ourselves. On the one hand we’re busy, productive, driven, rewarded; on the other we’re downright twisted, inflicting on our minds and bodies a perpetual cycle of self-damage and lunacy. That’s the price we pay and it we’re loathe to let anything disrupt it.
Ironically, the evidence of this came on my rest day (New Year’s Eve). After three hard sessions in five days, I took the chance to keep learning and watched the Turkish group graft away on the synthetic track. I helped time an aspiring Olympic marathoner on a gruelling 10x1k session in baking heat. Despite having a pacemaker to help maintain consistent reps, her first two were a good few seconds too quick, which obviously dictated the rest of the session (reminds me of someone…)
I was tired just watching and having done so, marathon training remains firmly off the agenda for at least another decade. Two laps are more than enough. There was pain, there were tears and the word ‘slowly’ failed to register (I even know the Turkish for this). The speed of the first two efforts killed any hopes of extending the session beyond 10 reps, but this wasn’t sufficient deterrent for the athlete and just as coach and I were set to decamp, she started her watch and took off round the bend again. When coach has to step onto the track to put a halt to proceedings, you know you’re dealing with a different level of tolerance and determination. Suddenly the stubborn pride and aspiration that is built into us became bluntly apparent. It was scary to watch. I loved it.
It all depends on how you feel on any given day. The day before my rest, I bravely (perhaps stupidly) took on the hills on my 30-minute tempo run. Despite a relentless climb for the first six minutes, I felt strong for the majority of the run, but with 10 minutes left it turned into an ordeal, lungs bursting and legs burning. After 26 minutes, I didn’t need a coach to step in; my body did that for me. It’s not about burying me out here; more than four miles of hard running in this climate was a successful enough exertion for me, so I trotted back to camp in the morning sun. I needed that rest day.
I’m really in the thick of it now. The mileage is climbing, the intensity of sessions likewise, not to mention the daytime heat. Speaking of heat, this made the indoor track at Sport City seem a pleasant place to do circuits. They’re merciless out here - 20 minutes of explosive jumping, lifting and pushing left me absolutely flattened me yesterday. As I write this, I’m drifting in and out of slumber having run 4x7.5mins on the mud track. Whilst it hasn’t put me in a lactic body bag like summer track work does, I’m pretty tired. Nonetheless it went well as I averaged 5:33/mile, a pace I’ve only really started running at home fairly recently.
The greatest luxury out here is time. This opens up room for all the finer details that a working life sadly limits: better sleep, core stability workouts, sauna visits, stretching, a clear head, but perhaps most importantly of all, the chance to immerse yourself in the countless approaches and subtleties behind every individual’s training regime. It’s not just time that affords this opportunity, though, but also the huge mix of athletes here, from world class runners to aspiring Olympians, right through to recreational runners and then myself who, if I’m honest, doesn’t have a clue where this is all leading.
I look around the dining room and see marathoners from Sri Lanka, Finland, Turkey and England (our very own Sonia Samuels), the Turkish U23 European steeplechase champion, Mexican and American 800m runners aspiring for the Olympics, as well as a local Kenyan who’s only 1,500m run fell below 3:50 in bare feet. A large contingent of GB athletes arrive in the next day or so, but I needn’t worry about making friends or being kept in the dark about the variety of training methods people adopt across the globe. Some 800m guys squat twice their bodyweight and undertake sessions that comprise pure hill sprints. Others treat fartlek religiously, whilst some jog around the mud track with a tyre around their waist, purely aiming to improve core strength and technique. It’s a challenge not to have my head turned by all the types of training going on, but I trust my own programme which makes it nice to simply observe and absorb.
I’m training smart, sensible and being rewarded for it, but there’s still the odd giddy moment. Following this morning’s mud track workout, I joined the back of a small Kenyan group running 10x1k. This was for the experience as opposed to proving anything, so I aimed to be a back-marker for 4-600m and duck out before any discomfort. It didn’t go to plan and after I reached 300m a lot quicker than I wanted, I realised what a prat I was and converted the run into my warm-down. If I needed a reason to change my mind on marathon training, I definitely haven’t found one.
Posted 02/01/2016 16:34