Since the fall, I’ve been running with the same training group, focused mostly on form and speed (goal: a fast 5K, then a fast 10K): mostly women, of all ages, working together to improve. The trainers were encouraging, and informative, and the runs were relaxing.
I often was forced to slow down to stay with the group, which, as you can imagine, is not exactly the best way to train to go FASTER. I also have chosen to run the trail half marathon this June rather than the road half marathon, and I needed to find a group that practiced running up and down twisty, rocky, single track dirt trails.
So a few weeks ago I switched, not without a little guilt, to a new training group, and believe me, no one is telling me to slow down. Now, I am forced (by my own competitive spirit) to run faster each week to stay within eyesight of the true speed demons (this is somewhat important, since I do not yet know the trails and standing around waiting for the slower group of runners to tell me where to turn isn’t fun). The weekly group runs are no longer relaxing, but I love being pushed to go faster each week.
Several of the women in this group were students of mine 10 or more years ago, and remembered me (I suppose that’s flattering?), but for the most part, I don’t know anyone yet. The coach, however, makes it a point to chat with each of us before or after each run—she explicitly says she wants to make sure everyone feels connected. It works, too: although I joined the group after they had already started running for a few weeks together, and thus they had begun to bond, the coach works hard to include the few latecomers in her one on one and group talks. A lesson for any professor: That’s what all students want, don’t they? To feel connected.
Each week we run on a different trail near town, so I’m finding new routes, and becoming a connosieur of trails and a bit of a trail running snob (I know this is no surprise):
- First, whose idea is it to put those damned blue stones on a dirt trail miles from town? Running on those stones requires intense attention to avoid slipping. And they are loud to run on, too, ruining the whole communing with nature part of the run, forcing me to up the sound on my ipod. My favorite trails are dirt–pure dirt–especially dirt beat down by other runners. My least favorite are those with the damned blue stones (and those with bike ruts–those are much worse).
- Why do slower runners or walkers refuse to move over the approximately 6 inches or so it would take for me to pass them without knocking them over? Yes, I know they can’t hear my “on your left!” over the din of the blue stones or their ipods, or because they are chatting away two abreast, but I do yell loudly. [I’ve no doubt that the mountain bikers sharing the trail have similar complaints of even fast runners, but since they cause the bike ruts, phooey to them.]
- Why do so many runners have those very cool GPS watches? Such watches tell them how fast they are running each mile, how many miles they have done (difficult to guess, even if you know the trails, when our own signposts are trees), and later when they upload the information, they can see the elevation of the trail, and how they slowed down or speeded up at certain intervals. At the end of the run, all the GPS owners get together to share their data, and argue over the pros and cons of their individual GPS watch systems. There are debates about whose watch is most accurate (some say we ran 6 miles today, while other scoffed at that and said it was only 5.88). Let’s just say I used to have Ipad envy, but today I have serious Garmin envy.
Otherwise, running on a trail for miles and miles, even when it’s cold in the mornings as it has been, is pure pleasure for me. It’s what made my Sunday a little brighter today, despite the grey skies and the paper grading that needs to get done.