Musings on Speed

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It was a bitter cold winter's night. My first real run with Run Dem Crew elites. We set out at a pace I didn't think I could handle, but I so wanted to fit in that I just kept pushing myself harder and harder to keep up. I vividly remember the moment my watch beeped indicating the end of a kilometer and I had a tiny fraction of a second to register that this had only taken 3:45, just over a 6:00/mile pace. I'm not this fast, I thought. And then I just kept running. We had a couple of brief stops for traffic lights, and finally rocketed into Trafalgar Square barely seventeen minutes after leaving Shoreditch. I am shattered. I am in shock. I am so grateful for a rest. After a bit of waiting around for other groups to show up, and some quick photo taking, we need to get moving. We are now freezing as our sheen of sweat starts moving towards becoming a sheath of ice. Back the same way? Of course not. Off to the Embankment where the front of pack rockets off to take advantage of over a mile of uninterrupted pavement. I can't keep up, but I won't give in. I just keep running as fast as I can. A voice in the back of my head tells me there is no point. They are gone. You'll have to finish the run on your own. Finally Millenium Bridge comes into sight, almost time for a break. But what's that sound? Clapping? Oh my, there the rest of the group is. Waiting for me. Clapping for me. Welcoming me back into the fold. 

It was a warm, humid summer London night. I'd been running with Run Dem Crew elites for about six months and every week was still stretching me to my limit. We hit Victoria Park and I had to just bear down and accept that this was going to be painful. The thing about Vicky Park is that it's about a three mile (5K) loop with no need to stop. The pack flew out ahead of me and I just focused on technique, kept my eyes on the people I was close enough to keep in sight, and hoped for the leaders to decide to stop just to have a stop as that was the only mercy I was going to get. Finally, about half-way through the loop I was tremendously relieved to see the group clustered around a water fountain and not continuing to pull away from me. I kept up the suicide pace I was running as long as I could, gratefully pulled to a stop and turned to Jeggi. I wanted to say "You have no idea what it cost me to do that last bit." Then I saw his face and the coin dropped: he knew full well. Because it wasn't just me that was dying on this run, it was everyone else too. The camaraderie and support I had been feeling from these guys and girls for months suddenly made a lot more sense. They weren't looking at the slow guy (#slowestOfTheFast) and thinking "well, for him that was okay" they were recognizing that I was putting out at least the same level of effort that they were.

That was a turning point for me, but it was also just one more small step in the journey. The truth is that part of who I am as a runner was forged in the crucible of showing up every Tuesday night for over a year knowing full well that three things were going to be true: 1) I was absolutely going to get my ass kicked. This was going to hurt and there was nothing I could do to prevent that. 2) As long as I gave it my all I was going to be warmly welcomed when I rejoined the group that had temporarily left me in their dust. 3) At the end of it all, I was going to feel both shattered and elated. 

On these runs there is no time for self-pity, no time for anything but focusing on technique because that is the only thing that will get you through the run. If you are thinking about pain, if you are thinking about how hard it is, you need to think about something else. There's no time for pain. Your brain will cry out for mercy, and you need to find a way to tell it "I don't have time to have this conversation now." Your brain will tell you that you can't keep running this fast, and you need to prove it wrong.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Daniel Maskit published on July 31, 2016 10:49 PM.

Usually The Mountain Wins was the previous entry in this blog.

Mental Mindtricks and Meditative Marathoning is the next entry in this blog.

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