Today I hit not one, but two of my running goals.
When I started this business of learning to run, I made this list:
- Run for 30 minutes without stopping or walking
- Run for 5km without stopping or walking
- Run 5km in 30 minutes
- Finish the half-marathon in under 3 hours
Today was my first real long run. The idea of a long run is that you do one, say, once a week, and the emphasis is on the time it takes, not on the speed. The point is to get your body used to staying on your feet for long periods of time, while you use your other training sessions to work on speed.
On Thursday I managed more than 20 minutes without stopping, so I decided that today I would try to achieve my first goal, which is to run for 30 minutes straight.
To put this in perspective, when I started training 2 months ago, I could just about manage 60 seconds.
So this morning I headed off to the airport because I want a nice straight shot for long runs, without all the business of crossing side streets that is the nightmare of running in the middle of a village. Having learnt my lesson from that session with my sister where we ended up in the maze-like back streets of Ħal-Safi, today I went to the North side of the airstrip, and planned to run east along it, and then back again.
I steeled my nerves against the fear of failure, strapped on my backpack, and started jogging.
This was the first time that I could look ahead and see a straight path ahead of me. Usually I run around my neighbourhood, which is your typical Maltese village with nary a straight stretch. The long, straight path looked rather daunting, actually, but on the plus side it has two slight hills, so I could never see more than about a kilometre ahead.
Turns out that it is about two kilometres down the north side of the airstrip, then the path turns south along the short end of the strip, but very soon presents the aspiring runner with a rather steep hill.
Not wanting to push my luck, I turned back at the bottom of the hill. Hill climbs can wait.
My first kilometre went by at a 9:30 minute pace, which was better than I had expected, but then I began to slow by about 10 seconds each km.
I reckoned that it would take me around 3 and a half kilometres to reach 30 minutes of running, and by the end of the second km I was feeling pretty good.
That's when I began entertaining thoughts of pushing through to my second goal... the 5k.
So I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and the narrator in my Runkeeper smartphone app kept on informing me as I hit one km after the other, mostly to a background of hiphop mashups on my playlist (with the odd musical theatre number thrown in).
Finally, I heard the words "Distance... five... kilometres" and I felt so thrilled! I kept going for a little longer, though, because I'd walked a little after I started the app, and I wanted to make sure I really did run for 5k...
At 5.2k and 51 minutes, I stopped the app, and slowed to a walk. My legs immediately felt like jelly and I almost fell over (a very bad thing, given that I was on the hard shoulder by this time, in the cycle lane, with cars whizzing by a couple of feet away from me).
I staggered off the road to safety, sat down on a low wall, drank the rest of my water, and held a little victory party for myself. I immediately received a congratulatory email, which really made me smile - my Runkeeper account is integrated with my Foursquare and Fleetly accounts, so I received a badge from Foursquare and a medal from Fleetly:
My pace was very slow - 10 minutes per km is a brisk walk really, as well as a slow jog - but today was all about slow and long. That's what I'm aiming for anyway, to be able to go for long distances. Time is only an issue because races have cut-offs, and if you don't make the cut-off then at best you don't get the pretty medal, and at worst you get picked up by the rescue vehicle and not allowed to finish at all.
So my next step is to start doing some speed work as part of my training, mostly by doing intervals. To finish the half-marathon within the cut-off of 3 hours, I need to be able to reach an overall pace of 8:30 minutes.
I'm considering throwing out my third goal, which is to combine the first two by running 5k in 30 minutes, mostly because I'm not training for a 5k, but for 21k. Maybe I'll set some other intermediate goals instead.
For now, I am celebrating my achievements and looking forward to going longer and faster.