Speed – A Journey to Fitness

I just had a crazy experience yesterday where I tried to break my record for 1.5 miles. For those of you who are more familiar with the Olympic-standard stadium tracks, 1.5 miles is 6 rounds around the track, 1 round being 400 meters long.My history with the track was when I ran my first mile at a pretty young age, say around 9 or 10. I remembered it being long as hell, an activity I had to endure instead of enjoy. Of course, as a kid, my stride was extremely small, so it did seem way longer than it does now. As I grew up, my body had a tendency to grow horizontally because I loved food. Because of that, the track was never my best friend. Even when I did sports with a couple of friends, I was never one of the most athletic. However, I did continue to run the mile, and later on, the mile and a half, every now and then.Finally there came a point in time when I decided that I was going to stop being overweight. It was a very difficult time for me, simply because I couldn’t see the progress no matter how hard I tried. Running was tough because of my weight, and I still had an insatiable appetite, which didn’t help. Over the course of almost a year of on-and-off light cardio and mild, weight training, my body became a little more accustomed to physical stress. Somehow, I suddenly felt the determination to start really becoming fit, and I did sprints, interval training, heavier weight lifting, and daily push-ups. My inspiration worked itself into my diet as well, where I learned to stop overeating too much. Within a few short months, I was able to lose almost 10 kilos. I felt much more confident, and in shape.

However, when I went back to school and got into a busy schedule, I put on the weight again. The graduation exams were so stressful that I almost gained back everything I lost earlier. Thankfully, there was a long period of time between my graduation and my next stage in life, i.e. university. I decided to pick up on the exercise again, and this time, I managed to lose almost 20 kilos of unhealthy weight to get into the “fit” weight range. Most of my old clothes became too baggy, and I was able to wear stuff that I never thought I would. While being overweight no longer became a concern for me, my mind still went back to the track runs I did when I was younger.

So I set a goal for myself. I’ve heard of friends who were able to complete a 1.5 mile run under 9 minutes and 15 seconds. That, to me, was a very fast speed, because at the peak of my fitness, I could only average about 2 minutes a round, which added to a total of 12 minutes for the entire run. To do a run slightly over 9 minutes would mean that each round was completed within 1 minute and 30 seconds! Breaking that down further, it means that you must keep a constant speed of about 16 km/h to succeed. That is insanely fast.

But I decided to train myself to be able to do it. So for starters, I ran about 1 mile twice a week. I had no speed requirements, but I tried to keep it at around 12 km/h to condition myself. Slowly, I pushed it up to 1.5 miles at the same speed, and managed to achieve timings of under 13 minutes. There was a day where I felt very tired, so I decided to run at around 9 to 10 km/h. The thing was, the more I ran, the more I didn’t feel like stopping. I ended up running over 3 miles that day! I realized that I wasn’t so bad at running after all. Still keeping up the running to twice a week, I was able to push the timing down to roughly around 11 minutes on average. My best of yet was still only 10 minutes and 47 seconds.

Just yesterday, I decided to break the record. I pushed myself to run at 14.5 km/h for most of the rounds, and half-way through I almost felt like quitting! It was that difficult. My chest was burning, my abs were aching, and I could hardly feel my legs. But I just kept pushing forward because I knew that I didn’t come so far for nothing. At the final 200 meters, I almost felt numb because of the lactic acid build-up, and I was breathing heavily through my mouth. Still attempting to keep my breathing stable, I carried on. Finally when I was done, I was elated. Because not only did I endure the momentary suffering, but I finally broke my own record: I got a timing of 10 minutes and 25 seconds!

I’d love to celebrate that, but I know better than to rest on my own laurels. I believe after getting this speed, the training game has changed. No longer would it work efficiently for me to keep running 1.5 miles straight. I think I would try for interval training, where I run 1 round (400 meters) within 1 minute and 30 seconds, and then rest (or jog at a slower speed), and repeat the cycle. Slowly I will build up to 2 rounds within 3 minutes, and then 3 rounds within 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Once I can do 3 rounds with rest breaks 3 times in a row, I will go on to putting two and two together, and run the full 1.5 miles within 9 minutes! That’s how it works in theory of course. But it’s nice to have a plan, even if I ditch it halfway for something more effective, and I’d like to see where it takes me.

Now how about you? The idea of running with speed, leaving everything behind, and cutting a trail through the wind is very enervating. Share your stories about running, or your own journey to fitness too! If you don’t have any, you can always start now. Every journey starts with a single step 🙂

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