I had the opportunity today to run down Memory Lane. I coach now. I still run. Just not like I did. Not as much as I did. Not as fast as I did. But every once in a while the kids I coach ask. What was the toughest workout? What was the hardest run? What was the fastest you ran a 1500? 5k, 10k, 800, 400, 8k? What was the best, worst, greatest, most miserable, painful, exhilarating?
Why did you stop?
I love it when they ask. Who wouldn’t? I get to go back in time. I get to relive some of the most important moments of my running life, really my life period. Today’s conversation was inspired by the awesome workout that Galen Rupp did on the Boston University track 15 minutes after his American Record 2 Mile. I never did anything even remotely close to what Rupp did. But I had my moments.
What I find fascinating is that my favorite memories to talk about are not the races. The workouts I did are what I like to talk about best. In fact, I only remember the briefest of snippets of my races, good and bad. Although I do remember far more of my worst ones than my greatest! It’s funny just what we decide to store away in memory isn’t it? It just seems odd to think that those workouts that seemed so gruesome at the time would hold such sway after all these years. I’m remembering a particular workout that I did in 2001 with some of my teammates on the Nike Farm Team when Vin Lananna was coaching us. We did an entire set of repeats. A full workouts worth. To be precise we did 2 x 800 then a 600, 400, another 600, another 400 and 4 200’s before one last little addition to the workout was mentioned by Lananna. We assumed the work for the day was done. It was not.
Lananna told us to get on the line. 200’s. more 200’s? Ok. Not a problem. A 200m interval if you are fit, really fit (which we were), is akin to batting practice for a major leaguer. You can do them just about all day. No fear.
Lananna filled us in on what we were to do to end the workout
You’re going to do 200’s. You’ll have 20 seconds rest.
Ok. That was new.
29 second 200. 20 seconds rest. Then a 28 second 200 .
This was taking a very different turn from where we thought we were going. We asked the obvious question, really the only question that mattered – How Many??
Just keep doing them until I tell you to stop.
We did 8. One of us did 10. Not me. 200’s were never the same for me after that. They were once the cute and cuddly repeat distance. Now they were something else. I experienced real distress that day. The 200 was not even the worst part. It was the rest that was so miserable. 20 seconds is just enough time for tired legs to start to feel like crap. Heavy, dead, crappy legs. Legs that needed to start moving again too soon and too fast. I hit the times for the most part. I kept the rest at 20-22 seconds. But it burned. It hurt – bad. I miss that.
I ran for 3 more years after that workout. Competitively. By 2004 though my body was having a tougher and tougher time staying healthy doing such intense work. I had given post-collegiate running a chance for close to 5 years. I stopped. It was time.
I can still get those feelings I got from that workout though. The times that cause that burn and hurt are slower. It takes fewer intervals too. But when I get there and the legs get heavy and the breathing begins to labor and my wheels start to fall off I enjoy it. I’m traveling back through time. Back to a place where I was young and fast. I was unafraid of speed. I was excited about great distances.
Then I’m back here and I’m laboring now on a run or I’m just telling a group of young runners about those 200’s. They get it. They are living and running those 200’s now. That is great. I’m happy to know that this sport keeps getting runners to take that line, hurting, and start another repeat and keep on going until it’s time to stop.
Until it’s time to start again.