We’ve been running again, me and my sister. No daft marathons this time, just a 10k in the picturesque village of Port Sunlight.
As usual, we didn’t take it particularly seriously. In the run up to race day, we tried to outdo each other with how little training we’d done. My sister was heard to say ‘I’ve done no running this week and eaten nothing but Danish pastries!’ (I know for a fact she’s been out with her running group several times though).
I, however, had only run ONCE since our last 10k in February.
We set off together, but it was quite clear my sister had been lying about her lack of training, and when I had to stop and walk after 12 minutes, she just carried on without even looking back. I huffed and puffed my way round the course, walking surprisingly little (it was FLAT, you see, flat as a pancake, whereas where I live it’s always HILLY). It was VERY hot.
Eventually, after 7k, I spied Lorraine in the distance, and at 8k I finally caught her up (she was walking along nattering to someone, that’s the only reason). I should have sneaked past stealthily but I couldn’t resist shouting and she shrieked (much to the amusement of the crowd) and shot off. I didn’t see her again til the finish line.
I honestly don’t know where my reserves of strength came from that day. I knocked nearly 12 minutes off the time I did in February (and had knocked 24 minutes off my previous time back then). The improvement at the last race I put down to marathon training, but this time there’s no such reason – I’ve hardly run at all since the marathon in October.
What I have been doing is walking. Plain, simple walking, and lots of it. I got myself a pedometer, and try to get to at least 10,000 steps a day (for me this works out around 5 miles – it seems I have quite teensy steps). On the days I go to the office, I’ll often clock up 15,000, and sometimes even 20,000.
The more I walk, the more I want to walk. I walk to the shops, to the train station, and to the post office. I walk to the pub, and to friend’s houses, even when they’re on the other side of town. I’ll happily walk for an hour to visit someone, and then another hour back again. It’s starting to feel like when I didn’t have a car, and I like it.
The other unusual thing for this race was that I didn’t try to conserve my energy. I hang around on a running forum, and people often talk in hushed tones about the ‘negative split’ – doing the second half of a race faster than you did the first. This shows you didn’t go off too fast, you even had a bit of energy left to speed up towards the end, and it’s meant to be a Good Thing.
I’m sure it is a good thing, especially if you’re at the speedy end of things, or if you’re doing a long race. No point running as fast as you can at the start of a marathon, and having to drop out half way round, after all.
The trouble is that I took this ‘negative split’ goal to heart right at the start of my running career. ‘Aha!’ I thought ‘Mustn’t run too fast, I might not make it to the end!’ And so I ran slowly. I didn’t push myself. I ran as if I was just out for a stroll, even during a race. I’ve been known to both pop into a newsagents for jelly babies during one half marathon, and answer my telephone during another.
You could argue, I suppose, that I wasn’t really racing at all…
Now though, after doing the marathon, I know I can keep going for a long time. I got round 26 miles – which means I can certainly manage 6. I’ll often walk more than 6 miles during a normal day.
So this time I decided I was going to run as fast as I could, right from the start, and I did. You might not have realised if you’d been watching – ‘as fast as I can’ isn’t actually that fast at all… But I surprised myself, and I kept going. I did each kilometer in roughly the same amount of time, and although I didn’t quite achieve the mythical negative split, I wasn’t far off.
I actually pushed myself. And nothing bad happened. In fact, I really rather enjoyed it.
(Don’t tell anyone yet though)