Going Fast Can Be Slow

Last year’s Fifth Avenue Mile race went so well, my story became The Mulligan Mile, a major feature  in the September issue of Runner’s World.  Now, after a few setbacks and a major slowdown, I’ve been trying to ramp up my training so I can save a little bit of face in this year’s running on Sept. 22 in New York.   But going fast is just not something you can rush.

Even though I’m now doing many of the same methods I used last year in training, I just don’t have the same foundation of strength and stamina that came through 4 solid months of training and cross-training.  And while i still have memories of going fast, my body seems to have forgotten what that’s like.   Much of the speed I gained last year (I cut 1:18 seconds off my mile time) came toward the end of my training. Yet, that rapid gain was a bit of an illusion, since it was the result of a lot of little things that I had done religiously during the previous weeks and months that was behind the “sudden” surge in my times.   Strength training, full court basketball games, close attention to diet, runner’s yoga, spin classes, even the meticulous journal keeping that I did last year in hot pursuit of my goal– all of it played a role in my success and just hasn’t come together in the same way this year.

What I’ve been feeling like lately.

Yet this runner, like so many others I know, won’t let the lack of a PR stand in the way of a good run.  Unlike pro athletes who are urged to retire before they start to be less of the player they were at their prime (think of the aging Willie Mays playing for the Mets or today, the suddenly human Mariano Rivera blowing saves for the Yankees and coughing up another pennant to the Red Sox) the runner doesn’t have to retire to preserve his legacy.  The runner just runs, nods at the clock and keeps going.  We don’t ask millions of dollars of our employers or expect stadiums full of fans to pay their way to see us compete.  We just ask for a level shoulder of the road, a few feets width of path on the community trail and the occasional temporary road closure for a race.

Lately I’ve felt terrible as I was running– and incredibly good that I have run.  Even when it’s slow and kind of sucks to give in to the fatigue, it still makes every day better.

Sunday, I’ll be running the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon as part of a relay team. I’ll be on the second leg, which connects Allentown and Bethlehem.  Maybe I’ll see you out there. I’ll be the guy laughing all day– other than perhaps some of the much too long time that I’ll spend pushing myself along the canal tow-path.

You know they put that trail in there for jackasses, right?

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