“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” —Walt Disney
By COLLEEN LEDDY
As announced in By the Way by my husband, I jogged 10 laps (two and a half miles) a week and a half ago in my quest to participate in the Neal Singles Memorial 5K Run this Sunday—and it’s been downhill ever since. I thought maybe I just hit a plateau, but that would imply I could still run two and a half miles. A mile and a half of continuous running is the most I’ve done since the momentous 10 laps. This impasse is worse than a plateau. A plateau gives hope. It’s flat and steady. It implies that I will rise again and maybe reach 11 laps, maybe even the whole five thousand dang kilometers.
But I don’t see a rise on the horizon. I hit the track feeling pretty good and by the time I reach the first 100 meter mark, I feel like I’m pulling a sled full of kids on a thin coating of snow. Back in my early days of mothering I could stand that challenge. But now the extra weight I’m carrying is attached at the hips, buttocks and thighs, and getting rid of it is not as easy as flipping over the sled to dump a kid or two.
It’s not just the extra weight. I’ve been trying too many methods with not enough time to see if they really work. I started out haphazardly, just trying to add another lap each day, inching my way up to one mile over a three-week period. Then I half-heartedly tried the method Jeff and Grace Johnston swear by: Jeff Galloway. He’s a former Olympic runner who suggests intervals of walk breaks between running.
Grace said she and Jeff run for two minutes and then walk for one minute. “This was more than enough when Jeff and I started but now we play around with the intervals. We are trying 30-second walk breaks now,” she said. “Check out Jeff Galloway. Maybe he will be your inspiration.”
I tried the two-minute run/one-minute walk method several times and I was inspired to die. One minute of walking disappeared in no time. Even after two minutes of walking, I sounded like an obscene phone call. But I should have heeded Grace’s advice sooner and checked out Galloway’s plan for running a 5K. His website gives a very reasonable training schedule, starting out with the very preferable method of jogging one to two minutes and walking two to three minutes. Too bad I didn’t start there. Although his plan covers 15 weeks and I only had eight, it looks really sensible.
Then my daughter Rozee came along with a weekly schedule from coolrunning.com and its delightful three-days-a-week program. I stopped my six-days-a-week regimen and adopted the suggested workouts, including the admonition to “run more slowly than you think you should.” Wow! I could handle that!
But the best advice came from Heather Whitehouse, one of the organizers of the Neal Singles run. When I whined to her in an email that I couldn’t run two miles to save my life, she shot back with this, “I think you can run two miles, probably more. The thing is, you think you can't because you feel like you're dying, but once you hit that point, it doesn't get much worse until you actually collapse...ha ha.”
She’s absolutely right and I have to keep repeating that to myself as Johnny Cash wails on about getting married in a fever and hearing the train a comin’ while stuck in Folsum Prison. I got hooked on listening to music while running after Renee Collins from Lenawee United Way emailed David: “Tell Colleen...if you listen to really loud music, it’s not so bad because then you can’t hear yourself wheezing...You focus on the beat and stop thinking about how it hurts!”
I told Betsy Bentley of the three-day plan and she said something like, “Oh, I think you can do more than that.” Betsy should know; she runs marathons. But it took at least a week for her advice to sink in and meanwhile I began losing whatever stamina I had gained. I began to despair of ever running the whole three miles. I finally decided I’d try a variation of Jeff and Grace’s method: three repetitions of running a mile and then walking a quarter mile, only I would try to run faster than I had been.
I tried it last Thursday and was pretty happy with myself for stepping up the pace in the first mile I ran.
When I was on my walking lap and could finally catch my breath, I asked David, “Did it look like I was running faster?”
“Yeah! Uh huh!” he said, way too readily and enthusiastically. “And you looked thinner, too!”
So, I can’t really trust my husband. But I think Ron O’Brien has come through just in time for my last week of training. He emailed David this morning.
“I want to pass along some running advice for Colleen from the late great Walt Stack, who ran well into his eighties. When asked how he does it, he replied, ‘I start out slow then ease up.’”
I think that might be just my speed.– Sept. 20, 2006