Personal Records Tumble

26 March – 2 April 2018

After returning from holiday and resting, I still did not feel physically prepared to tackle my mile challenge at the start of the week as I had planned. The weather was also far from optimal, with rain close to flooding my local river. It was not until later in the week that the time would be right.

Thursday

1 Mile Time-Trial

The sky was overcast yet blue. The quiet country road was dry.
There was no traffic. I was alone.
So I set off. Fast.
I drove hard with legs and arms.
But by the end of the first quarter mile I had my doubts about achieving my lifetime ambition.
I knew the run would be painful and I wondered if I was only setting myself up for failure.
I persevered and pushed the thoughts away.
My legs felt heavier despite my level of effort remaining constant.
Still, I kept passing the landmarks of trees, logs and gates lining the road.
I stayed on the balls of my feet as the pain in my chest increased.
The metallic taste spread across my throat. I felt on the edge of my physical limit.
But I also intuitively knew it was the measure of success. I needed to stay in this zone.
I continued to push hard along the slightly downhill gradient. The side winds kept me concentrating.
After the three-quarter mile mark I looked down at my sportswatch for the first time. The pace at that moment was 5:28 per mile.
I had no idea what my average pace was so I picked up the pace and sprinted the last thirty seconds.
As I looked down at my sportswatch to see when I had crossed the proverbial finish line I glanced at the number 59.
I hadn’t been slow enough to run 5:59 so I knew I had done it.
On the ground, exhausted, I confirmed the achievement.
I was overjoyed.
I chuckled to myself hysterically.
As I got to my feet and began walking back up the road to reclaim my running jacket, the metallic blood taste was indescribable.
I had to stop several times.
I told myself this feeling was worth it. The time was 4:59.82.

Despite the jubilation of running a sub 5-minute mile at my first attempt, I had to be patient for my chance to attack my two-mile personal best. I had thought that Sunday would be right, but my legs were still a little heavy and achy from Thursday’s exertions. Unfortunately, the weather Sunday night meant Monday’s conditions were not as favourable as they had been on Thursday.

2 Mile Time-Trial

(Following) Monday

2 Mile Time-Trial

Significant puddles sat on many sections of the route. The sky looked as if it would rain.
Wet feet were inevitable.
I started a mile further along the same stretch of country road as my one mile time-trial.
I waited for a couple of vehicles to drive past before I set off.
This time, I kept glancing at my sportswatch as I took the first bend, then the second.
My heart was racing but no lactic acid had built up in my throat.
I was excited when I noticed my average pace was 4:59 per mile.
The memory of last Thursday spurred me on as I powered up a long, slight incline.
My pace suffered but I didn’t panic.
I soon reached halfway, the starting point of my one mile time-trial. I clocked 5:13 for the first mile.
From there, I faced more puddles, but my pace was steadily improving.
I considered the heavy effect on my stride as the rainwater soaked my Vibrams.
I told myself that “I had this record.”
I focused on maintaining my strong arm and leg movements, whilst not letting my average pace fall any further than 5:23 per mile.
Less than half a mile to the finish and I saw my fiancée at the side of the road.
She took photographs of me as I checked my sportswatch.
I made a conscious effort to give all I had to the moment.
For the last few seconds, I felt my chest begin to fill with lactic acid.
I clocked 10:42.74, over 35 seconds quicker than my previous best.

Aside from my two time-trials, I ran 22.37 miles (equivalent to 2 hours, 56 minutes and 23 seconds) at a comfortable pace, which included Monday, Saturday and Sunday. I rested on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Also, on Thursday evening I ran a tough session with my club. I completed 6x 0.5 mile reps at a tempo pace, with 0.25 mile jogging recoveries in between reps. Despite my pace fading as the session progressed, I was pleased that I still had some power in my legs and stayed in second position throughout.


I feel great relief and exhilaration in what I called ‘my race week’. By giving myself adequate time to taper and devise the ideal route I was able to accomplish a challenging goal in style (by working hard from the start and maintaining quick speed despite severe discomfort).

My mile performance also allowed me to maximise my training, by resting and breaking another personal record four days later. Although the two-mile time trial was a relatively easier run, I still wanted to ‘give my all’, which I managed by staying focused and pacing myself more evenly.

The past twelve weeks has been a great experience for me, both preparing for and adapting to relatively great physical stresses. I enjoyed the process of becoming more psychologically aware and capable of sustaining fast speeds, and feel proud to have applied those lessons at the first attempts.

For me, the momentary discomforts I felt during the time-trials were necessary in order to achieve goals that I will remember for the rest of my life

I am confident that my training techniques can now help me deliver similar performances at longer distances.

First Signs of Progress

22-28 January 2018

Monday – workout #10

4x 0.25 mile at a range of 1 minute slower and faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1¼ minute walking/standing recoveries)
5 minute walking recovery
4x 0.12 mile at a range of 30 seconds slower and faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1 minute walking/standing recoveries)

After another 3 days of rest I was desperate to run.
I kept my sports tape on my right leg, as it was still not fully healed.
I shot off for my first lap, smashing my quarter-mile personal best by over 4 seconds [1:04.66].
Predictably the remaining 3 reps were a struggle.
My pace dropped even though my legs were working hard.
I wanted to redeem myself so I ended the session with shorter bursts.
Once again my times were inconsistent, despite the constant discomfort in my stomach.
Interestingly I didn’t use any internal mantras to support my running. This was a contributing factor to my erratic performance.

Wednesday – workout #11

Pyramid sets of approx. 4x 30, 4x 45 and 2x 60 seconds with jogging recoveries of 1½ – 2½ minutes at a range of 15 seconds slower and faster than 1 mile goal race pace*

I ran with my running group at work.
The path through the park was flat.
I led from the front, conscious of not running at my maximum.
At times I used the grass verge to avoid collisions with walkers.
I also slipped on the mud at the start of one rep, but regained my front running position.
I stayed focused, using approximate markers to keep my consistency.
By the last rep the rain was pelting down but I didn’t slow.
The group leader reminded me of “becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable”.
The workout, and my training thus far, has epitomised this principle.

Thursday – workout #12

5 km time-trial at a perceived even pace.

On a calm night I tackled the same route around the perimeter of my local industrial estate.
I felt confident I could beat my previous time a month ago.
I told myself to “show up”.
I had different competition this time, with some strong club runners looking to impress.
I relished the challenge and went out hard from the start.
I led for only a short time before the eventual winner pulled out of sight.
By the end of the first lap I was in third position.
I reminded myself to keep pushing hard, reducing the gap to the runner in front.
A lorry turning into a side road meant the challenge was easier for me.
I used the incline to surge.
My competitor matched my effort.
I had to stay a step behind him as we approached the final stretch.
Again I surged but he maintained his position, crossing the line two seconds ahead of me.
I shaved 30 seconds off my 3.1 mile time in just over a month, achieving 17:54, 7 seconds shy of my lifetime best time.
The time-trial had proved my speed endurance was improving.

Sunday – workout #13

1 mile time-trial at a perceived even pace.

A last minute change of mind meant rather than an easy run I would complete the first of my mile time-trials.
I became nervous as I warmed-up and did some strides.
I ignored the few teenagers milling around the area.
I reminded myself that I shouldn’t run the first lap around the patch of grass too fast.
My fiancée took some photographs of me as I ran, which made me relax.
I began feeling fatigue by the end of the first lap, but at no point was my breathing out of control.
I just kept hanging on, driving with my arms and legs.
I didn’t look at my sports watch until the last lap to confirm I was nearing the end.
But my timing was off so rather than a sprint finish I ran just over the distance before stopping.
I waited after a long recovery walk before checking my time.
I recorded 5:20.57, my current sixth best ever mile time.
Although not especially close to my ultimate goal, I was pleased with the consistent effort for each lap and how I dealt with the sunny and windy conditions.
In less than a month I had reduced my mile time by over 6 seconds, another measure of successful progress.

One Mile Challenge: Week 4

The remainder of the week included 1 rest day (Saturday) and two days of easy running (Tuesday and Friday) amounting to over 4.5 miles. Thankfully my right fibula and sore throat have subsided, although they remain an irritant.

During my four quality workouts I accumulated 7.08 miles (38 mins and 23 secs) between 4:19 – 6:06 min per mile pace. My maximum heart rate recorded was 192 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

My Fast One Mile Challenge

The mile, as a race, is an intriguing distance. It is the fundamental unit of measure that all road races are built upon, and yet is often forgotten as a test of overall fitness and assessment of progress towards other goals.

I first considered running a fast mile away from the track in early 2016 when, for the first time, I changed the settings on my Garmin sports watch to record mile splits.

I clocked 5:48.39. In subsequent months I lowered my best time to 5:38.41, 5:36.97 then 5:30.68, until in August 2016 I recorded four sub 5:30 miles, establishing my personal best as 5:08.41 (on the 22nd of that month).

Although I have since run numerous sub 6:00 miles, including in races such as the Witham May Day 5 Miler and Hardwick 10km, I have not managed to come any closer to the 5:00 mark. This is due in part to my reluctance to train specifically for the distance, instead preferring to use the distance (and shorter intervals such as quarter-mile, half-mile and three-quarter-mile) as repetitions during my speed workouts, for improving my performances at longer races.

In November 2017, after realising I had accumulated over 110 sub 6:00 miles in less than two years, I set myself an ambitious goal. For the first time in my running career I intend to focus solely on improving my one-mile personal record. I first took four weeks rest after my fourth Chelmsford Marathon in October 2017, then spent six weeks base training in preparation for my challenge.

My intention is to now train for 12 weeks, culminating in a time trial in the last week of March 2018 to compare my progress. I will use a local park as my ‘track’ and remind myself of why I am pursuing this life-time goal.

I ran 5:26.93 (my eighth current best time) on 30th December 2017 as a starting point for my challenge.