Learning to Fly: The Sub-7:00 Pace

Learning to Fly: The Sub-7:00 Pace

Speed work day! It was so wonderfully warm on this morning. Even before dawn, when I went out in the backyard to let the dogs pee, it honestly felt tropical. A tank top and shorts was the way to go for the run; I even would have been fine in a sports bra, and now that I think of it, I’m not sure why I didn’t do that.

I got to the track at 6:15, right as the sun was peeking over the trees. There were only three other people there, a man and two women, running up and down the bleacher stairs. Then they did some 200 meter drills; it looked like the man was coaching the women. They were all much faster than me.

I’m happy to announce that I ate a little something beforehand: three quarters of a banana (the part that wasn’t rotten) and a tablespoon of almond butter. So I felt good and had energy. I’m really glad I’ve decided to start eating a little something before runs. It may be more calories, but it results in better work… which makes you stronger… which burns calories. What a concept.

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I did a mile warmup, easy peasy pace. One thing I love about speed work is that I feel no shame whatsoever about any of my easy paces. They’re supposed to be easy. Embrace the easy!

I didn’t have much of a plan for this workout; I’d only done two recent speed work sessions: 4 x 400 two weeks ago and 4 x 800 last week. I kind of wanted to do both today.

I decided to do a couple of 800s and then however many 400s I could get into the 45 minutes I had. Ideally I should have an hour or more for this workout. Once I move to the city and replace the time I currently spend on the LIRR with running, many things will change for the better, time management being one of them.

Although, I will miss running on this track when I move. It’s clean, quiet, safe, and usually empty. Just one of the many sacrifices I will be making for living within walking distance of every race that begins or ends in Central Park, not to mention a 35-minute run from my workplace.

Anyway, after an easy mile warm up, I clocked my first 800 at a 7:02 pace. This both surprised me and didn’t.

To recap my last two weeks of speed work:

Two weeks ago: 4 x 400 @ 7:22, 7:25, 7:18, 7:24 min/mile.
Last week: 4 x 800 @ 7:40, 7:23, 7:12, 7:22 min/mile.

Usually after a fast burst, I can feel how much more I had in me. I can tell if I held back at all. I’m slowly getting to the point where I’m less afraid to give it all I have, especially if I know I’m only holding the pace for one or two revolutions around the track. So I think that’s what happened: my body knew it had more to give than the previous two weeks, so it gave.

Don’t get me wrong: this pace was hard, probably the hardest I’ve run in a long time. Although, last week during a 6 mile run (I should add, on a slight downhill), I did manage to clock a 6:40 pace for about a minute and a half. That felt incredible. The closest to feeling like flying I’ve ever come, and that includes actually being on an airplane.

Once I realized I’d done a 7:02, naturally I thought, Let’s see if I can get under 7. Because why not keep moving those goal posts, amirite?

After an easy half mile, I did my next 800 at a 6:58 pace.

See? my body said to me. I knew you could do it.
Yes, body, I said.
Say it.
You were right.
I can’t hear you.
YOU WERE RIGHT.
I know I was.
Body, I’m hungry, can I stop running now?
Fuck no.
Okay.

As always, I listened to my body.

Before this, I had never done any speed work at a pace under 7:00 min/mile. So this was definitely a milestone for me.

I was itching to try some 400s. If I could hold a 6:58 for twice around the track, what could I do for once around? So after a another easy half mile, I did a 400 at a 6:38 pace.

This nearly killed me.

Of course I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. This pace was super hard, practically a sprint. I literally could not move my legs any faster. Afterwards I was huffing and puffing so hard, I was relieved to be the only person on the track – the trio of runners from earlier currently doing a longer run in the area (I assumed, seeing as though they had left their stuff).

I did my second 400 at 6:58, and as soon as I started it, I knew I had lost steam. I knew this one would be slower. Still, considering, 6:58 is excellent for me. But I was conking out. After this one, I did something I almost never do during a run: I stood still. It took about 15-20 seconds of bending over with my hands on my knees to catch my breath.

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I had a feeling I was done. Doing only two 800s and two 400s felt like a bit of a copout, but at the same time, I went faster than I ever had before. I’m thinking that maybe the key to speed work is finding the right balance of going fast but not so fast that I feel like dying. And, of course, having enough time for the workout itself.

So I did an easy pace for one more mile, and then it was time to go. I like to leave before all the school buses start pulling in, and I also had a train to catch.

Running has truly become a life-changing experience for me. Not just physically. At the very least physically. Knowing that I have done the work to improve as much as I have even in just one year makes me more confident, than, honest to god, anything else I have ever done in my life. It’s insane. I used to think I wasn’t a “natural runner” and put this mental wall up that severely limited my progress, my goals, and the work I put in. I feel like I’ve done that my whole life in so many ways: told myself I was only capable of this much and nothing more; putting a cap on my potential before I even had a chance to challenge myself and prove myself wrong.

Running has taught me not to do that anymore. I am not going to do that anymore.

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One thought on “Learning to Fly: The Sub-7:00 Pace

  1. Whoa, your running is really coming along. Congrats! Your hard work is definitely paying off. We are working in Central Park all spring. Perhaps we will see you whizzing by on a run!!

    Liked by 1 person

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