My lovely wife signed up for a 10-week half-marathon training program and I decided to join her. The program is organized by the local Fleet Feet store and primarily focuses on beginners and shorter-distance runners wishing to try the half.
The program caters to all speeds and techniques so each Wednesday and Sunday there are about 300 participants divided among four or five coaches.
It’s a little weird for me, having already run about a dozen half-marathons, but I have always trained alone and have not had any previous coaching. Even in the early sessions, I have learned a lot of good methods for proper form.
In my solo training, I can steadily run 8-minute miles—a speed that normally puts me near the “front of the middle” of the pack. With the Fleet Feet group, however, 8-minute miles make me the second or third fastest dude. Both practically and psychologically, it was a completely different experience.
For one thing, we are running at night on a darkened trail, and it suddenly becomes a big concern to know where I am going. Where is the turnaround point? Which fork do I take? You can get pretty used to following the mob without a thought to these questions.
Normally in races or group running, you can concentrate on catching and passing one runner or a group, but there are always more of them in front of you. Near the front of the pack, you become very aware of specific individuals. Where is that little guy who sprinted out at the start? Did I pass the first female or is that her flashlight up ahead? Am I in front and, if so, what pace should I maintain? Whose footsteps do I hear?
It was a neat mental exercise in front-running without the impossible requirement of running 5-minute miles. I’m glad I experienced it.
I’m especially glad I experienced it because my front-of-the-pack jaunts have aggravated my peroneal tendonitis and I currently find myself limping around on one leg.
I may not get another opportunity to run in front. But with my bad ankle, maybe it’s time to see what it’s like in the back.