Keeping up with the boys


I’m sort of back on it.  I don’t do well without a training plan, and I have a 10k in a couple of weeks, so I’m roughly following the i10 plan over at intelligent running.  It’s less running than I’ve been doing (but hey, I’m not training for a marathon any more so that’s all good!) but it will get me back into the discipline of structured runs 3x per week, and will make me run stronger.

I noticed last week that I was running faster than before the marathon.  This week, I’ve been running with my son.  He’s 17, about 4″ taller than me, and no wider than a bamboo cane at any point (except his hair.  Which is pretty wide!).  He runs occasionally with his dad, but has never had a structure to follow.   He’s going to be running the Town & Gown with me in a couple of weeks – his first organised event.  He’s also about to do his A1 exams, and I think is feeling the stress.  So I figured some fresh air and exercise would be just the thing to brighten his mood and get him race ready…

So on Thursday, I did just about the cruellest mum-thing I’ve ever done; I made him get up early.  Early!! And took him out for a session of hill sprints.  Yup.  Early for hill sprints.  I figure that’s my Crummy Mummy 2016 nomination in the bag!  We live at the top of a hill, so we’re kind of spoilt for choice, but it only has pavement in one direction, and I didn’t fancy my chances running on the roads with Captain Stumble.  So we set off for the main road…

We were running a hill that has defeated me many times.  Many, many times.  I spent most of my first year of running devising routes that began with the hill – in a downward direction – and ended somewhere far, far away where Mr P obligingly, patiently comes to fetch me home again.  In a car.  Which remains, frankly, the best way to tackle the hill.  By far my favourite way.  But not a way which brings any improvement to my running.  So a while ago, I decided I was No Longer Afraid of the hill.  I swallowed a big, fat dose of ‘suck it up, buttercup’ and I ran up the motherfucking hill.  I ran up the hill and I ran down the hill and I ran up the hill again, and I did this again and again and again until my lungs burst.  But I conquered the hill, and that hill is now officially rubbish, compared to me!

So I took my son to the hill.  I explained to him that we were going to run up it for 60 seconds, and it would feel easy at first, but he was to only run at an effort of 8/10.  And then we’d walk down it, and run back up for another 60 seconds, and it would feel less easy.  And we’d repeat that 6 times, and then he’d be ready to run up Everest.  I also said that because he’s younger than me, and fitter than me, and has a better power to weight ratio than me, that he’d run faster than me.  So he should go at his 8/10, not my 8/10 and when he got to the top of the hill before me, he should turn and run down it again until I told him to stop.

And then I watched as he bounded away from me, devouring the hill in long, bouncy strides, making the whole thing look effortless and not at all the sort of thing one should prefer to do in a car.  And I tried frantically not to let him get so far ahead that he wouldn’t hear me tell him when to stop.  And then we walked down and ran back up and I tried not to let him get too far ahead of me, all over again.

I couldn’t quite get my hips to align properly.  I couldn’t quite engage my glutes correctly.  By the third rep my quads hurt and my lungs were straining and I was so glad – so, so glad – of the walking back downhill (even though I had to jog a bit of the walking downhill to catch back up with my son).  But I kept going, because he hated it and it was hard work, and his lungs wanted to burst and I couldn’t let him quit.  So we got into a routine of he bounding ahead, like an effortless adolescent gazelle (with big hair) and I puffing and wheezing behind, like the little train who can.  And by the fifth rep I was thinking “I don’t understand why this is *so* hard! I ran a fucking marathon for blinkin’ flippety sakes!” And I puffed and wheezed and wheezed and puffed.  And then finally we were on the last rep, and we were done, and he wanted to run home so he wouldn’t miss the school bus and I most emphatically wanted to walk home.  So I did.  And I didn’t feel very much like a marathon runner at that point, let me tell you.

Later that day, I looked at the stats – later because, y’know.  It didn’t really matter.  It hurt and it wasn’t going to be pretty, but the stats didn’t matter because I was running with my boy.  So the time and the pace were irrelevant. It was a mother/son thing.  It totally didn’t matter.  But I looked anyway because, y’know.  Interesting.  And it turns out I ran those hill repeats quicker than 9 minute miles!!  LIKE A FUCKING BOSS!!!!

From which we learn two things.

  1. Marathons make you stronger
  2. Running with gazelles makes you faster


Which is great for me, and less good for my son.  Cos now he has to come running with me every time I want to go fast…!