Tag Archives: sports

Running Fast


I run more than I used to. And much faster.


For the longest time, I had a set running scheme. Twenty jumping jacks, hop on the treadmill, start at 6.4 speed, increase the speed one tenth every half mile for two miles, slow back down to 6.4 for the third mile, speed up a decimal every quarter mile until I hit mile 3, then speed up to 7.0 until I got to 3.11 miles, or a 5k. Stop. Stretch.


I’ve always been sluggish. I’ve never been quick on my feet. My legs are disproportionately short and squat compared to my longer, leaner torso. I’m not built for speed. I was proud of my nine-to-ten minute miles, since 7th grade me could barely puff out a mile in 14 minutes and always had to stop and walk.


Then I had a conversation with one of our church teens. He’s a he, considerably taller than me, with long skinny legs and long flailing arms. He attends the school I attended when I was a teenager, and one of the features of their physical education program (as is the case with every phys. ed. program) is a regularly scheduled timed (and graded) mile run. We were comparing mile times; I rather proudly told him I could run a mile in about nine minutes.


He looked at me in wonder. “Nine minutes?” he said, almost pityingly. “That’s like, a D.”


Even though I know this boy well enough to know that he would never intend to hurt, I broke a little inside. I had worked hard for several years to get that fast. I was only able to make it to the three-mile mark in the last four years (my first time was when I was 20). I have managed very well for a person who is not genetically predisposed to athleticism. I’ve rarely even experienced “runner’s high”—running doesn’t feel good until I’m finished running. The act of running isn’t very fun, but it’s the most straightforward thing I’ve figured out to do that helps me stay healthy. As someone with no coordination, questionable depth perception, and a visceral aversion to group activities, sports are a significantly less enjoyable fitness option. Yoga, though and fun and challenging alternative, doesn’t get my heart rate up. I love feeling my heart thud confidently through the miles; I love the feeling of my springy knees; I love coming to the end of a few miles knowing I earned the warmth radiating from and through my muscles. So I run. Not fast. Just determinedly, and consistently: at least five times a week at varying distances.


I wasn’t about to take anyone’s pity for not being able to run fast. The following Monday, I started a mile at my usual finishing pace (7.0, or about an 8.75-minute mile) and sped up a bit every minute. I surprised myself with my first 8.25-minute mile.


Of course, I couldn’t let myself stop there. I had to get faster, and I had to be faster over longer distances. I kept my established pattern for 5ks, but kept increasing my starting speed. I would do 2-mile interval runs, alternating a minute of sprinting with a minute of running at an easier pace until I reached 2 miles, always finishing at my maximum speed. I would run a mile at a time, going as fast as my legs and lungs could carry me. I supplemented with weighted leg exercises, like squat jumps and calf raises and walking lunges and many, many more. I would choose my pre-run meals carefully, making sure that I would be full but not too full and sufficiently carbed up for my fastest and easiest pace.


Soon I could run 2 miles in 16 minutes, which quickly shrank to 2 miles in 15:23. My 5k time went down from 28 minutes to 25 and change. Occasionally I can go for 4 miles without killing myself (although my feet have taken a beating).


This week, I ran a 5k in my shortest time ever: 23 minutes and 58 seconds, or about 7 minutes and 45 seconds per mile. Today I ran 4 miles at an easier pace of about 8.5 minutes per mile, finishing in 32 minutes and 43 seconds.


All of this information is, I understand, more or less meaningless statistics on a runner who will probably never run in any race longer than a 5k. I realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of people out there who can run much faster than me and who probably think a 7:45 mile is embarrassingly slow. I understand that, so laugh all you like.


But I am proud of myself. I am fast, sort of. And I am getting faster.




There is no T.V. at the Rambler household. I know that’s a radical statement; after all, just about every household in America has an idiot box in every room. But we have no cable, no dish, no Netflix streaming—we can’t even pick up public broadcasting with rabbit ears anymore, thanks to the permanent switch to digital. We have a television and a collection of over a hundred DVDs, but no T.V.

We don’t like the noise.

However, comma, every two years, we have to make an exception to the rule.

Mother and I are Olympiacs. Neither of us is particularly interested in sports—a B in P.E. has presently biased me against athletics—but the Olympics are special. The Olympics are not like other sports events. For us, the Olympics have always been about national pride, the stories behind each athlete, exploring the culture of the host country. It’s about cheering on America. It’s about watching gifted, dedicated people giving everything they’ve got for the sake of giving everything they’ve got.

Nothing makes me prouder than watching an Olympian mouth the words to the national anthem.

We like watching the “pretty” events, like gymnastics, figure skating, synchronized diving. Frankly, I just enjoy watching people do things that I, in a million years of training, could never do.

What bothers me is when the commentators go on and on about a minor mistake that a competitor made. Or getting their spandex in a wad over a competitor getting a silver medal instead of a gold. Come on, folks. Second at the Olympics is a stinkin’ huge deal. That means you can backflip, handspring, sprint, butterfly stroke, or dive better than 99 percent of the global population. Shucks, the metal color’s different. What a crying shame.

A medal doesn’t necessarily make one a champion.

But Mother and I sit in front of the screen, biting our nails, cheering loudly through every race and routine, astounded by the complexity and remarkable design of God’s human creations. The talent. The skill.

It’s worth getting cable for two weeks just to watch it.  



Another exciting spin on the week is that Undisclosed Univeristy will be disclosing its new mascot on Friday. We’ve never had an intermural sports program until this year—and, since we’ve had no competition with other schools, we’ve had no reason to have a mascot until now.

All kinds of suggestions have floated around the school for weeks. Creatures from Eagles to Tigers have been suggested, followed by more outlandish beasts like Leviathans, Narwhals, and Groundhogs. Then there’s the usual litany of people and inanimate objects, like the Sabers, the Sentinels, the Archangels, the Battleaxes, the Battering Rams—you name it, it was suggested.

But they’re keeping it a secret from us until Friday. Whoever “they” are—and whatever “it” is.

The tension is killing me. I don’t even play sports—I may never go to the games—but there’s something universally alluring about buying t-shirts, sweatshirts, little felt flags, or a little plushie mascot to keep in your room, all emblazoned with the figurehead of your alma mater.

I’m a girl. Forgive me the use of the word “plushie.”

Still, excitement stirs the campus as we count down the days to the big unveiling.