Speedwork is better when you make others do it with you.
When was the last time you ran at your top speed? Gave 100% effort at sprinting? For me, it was last Thursday. And the only way I can convince myself to do it is with other people.
I’m a track runner. Wait, let me rephrase that, I’m a track runner when I can run with other people on the track. Like competing against them or practicing with them, or as I do now, coaching them.
Running on a track alone is a battle of the mind that I’m not strong enough to fight. But, as any good runner knows, I need speed work if I want to get faster. I’m not a fan of sprinting in the streets where stoplights and crosswalks get in the way. So I have a choice as a post-collegiate runner, run alone on the track (no) or convince my friends to join me. (yes)
It started when a bunch of us were training for the BMO half marathon in 2010. Over some beers after our regular 6 miler from the Seattle Running Company (now Fleet Feet Seattle), a group of us started talking about how nice it would be get back on the track after years of neglecting real speed work. We planned our workouts based on half marathon goal pace. I sent out the practice emails which would become long chains of one-off comments clogging up our inboxes.
I wish motion.social was available back then! I chose workouts that were doable for all skill levels inspired by my college training log.
We met at a high school track on Thursdays. Lining up in the dark, I did my best to time everyone to keep it real and accountable. We were not messing around. As adults, it’s a rarity to sprint unless you’re chased or running to catch the bus. We’ve lost the freedom of flight from our own two feet. Sure, I could do these alone. But I don’t always stick to the workout that I planned. I come up with excuses to cut it short. I don’t have the motivation to run as fast and push myself as hard if I don’t have my friends to chase or to stay in front of.
My original group of tracksters has started retiring from racing. I’ve continued speed work by coaching crossfitters on the track. They’re a different breed of competitive.
The type of sprints I coach benefits them in strength building, which is what they want. What they also get is the joy of feeling like a kid again, moving as fast as possible. Where we once called our childhood friends to come out and play, we now call on our adult friends to bring out the kid in us.