Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Doing speed on Boston Street

Everyone is telling me I should do speedwork.  Currently, I have been running 5 days per week, mostly on trails, with a bit of hills, and one or two fast “tempo runs”. 

So today, I was thinking, where can I do speedwork?  I tried to run at my old high school’s track a few times, but you never know when there’s a lacrosse game that makes running on the track difficult.

I decided to run on a section of Boston St. in Baltimore City.  There are no road intersections, just driveway entrances.

I started at East and Boston, and ran to just beyond Capt. James.  There is a parking lot between Capt. James and the Thai Restaurant.  The first entrance to that parking lot is 1 mile from East St.  Or is it East Ave?  I don’t know.  Does it really matter?  I think not.  Especially since I am the only person reading this, so I really don’t have to go into details!

Anyhow, 1 mile intervals seems like a great way to start into speedwork.  The last time I attempted speedwork, in 2006, I had major hammy problems immediately afterwards.  At the time, I didn’t really consider that maybe the problem was the duck-pin bowling with the deep slide that I tried on the same day.  Duh.

Whatever the cause, I had hammy problems, off and on, mostly on, for 3 years after that day.  Which totally sucked.

Today, I ran 4x1mi.  6:24, 6:31, 6:14, 6:34, with 2:30 rest in between, followed by 2.5 miles easy at 8:45.  Ideally, I would have done even splits, but this is my first REAL attempt at speedwork in a very very long time, so I’m not too worried.

The theory is that you train yourself to run fast, and learn how to keep a pace.  It’s not just a theory, a little speedwork can make a  HUGE difference in your race times.  There’s a bunch of scientific mumbo-jumbo I could go into, describing how exactly it benefits you.  But I don’t really feel like going into that now.

But when I was in high school, I remembered that to train for a 4:40 mile, I would do a bunch of quarters (12x400m) at sub 70 seconds per quarter (race pace).  I figure the same process can be adapted to the 5K and the 10K.  My goals are to get back to sub 6 minute miles for the 5K and 10k.  I need to train my body to re-learn what it is like to run that fast.  Running 1 mile intervals is the first step.  Eventually, I will run halves (800m) at better than goal pace.

There are plenty of websites and books that can give you scientific advice on the best way to train to get to a goal.  That is not what I am trying to do.  My running is more organic, I do what I feel my body can handle.  Since I am a bit older, I need to be concerned about injuries that can ruin a season.  Slavishly sticking to a pre-printed schedule you find in a book is a recipe for disaster, at least for someone in my position.  Believe me, I have done that, ran through excruciating pain, because the book said that’s what I needed to do that day.   Finally, I have realized, the best way to get to your goals is to not get injured.  Maybe I need to say that again.

The best way to achieve your goals is to not get injured.

That means dnf-ing a race because your hammy is acting up, or you are running in really bad weather over insanely technical terrain, and  you have a more important race coming up in a couple weeks, and you don’t want to be picking your teeth off the trail.


  1. Thanks for the comment, Anonymous.

    In the blogging books, they say you should write controversial content, to encourage comments and discussion.

  2. Lols and BBS (big big smiles)!! You are most welcome for the blog comments. My guess is that I am not completely anonymous to you! I will "come out" as soon as I figure out how to be a follower:)

  3. Anonymous, you are correct. Using a word like "knucklehead" gave you away.
    Hope your running on the farm is going well for you.

  4. TH, I do speed on Boston St too, but the "other" kind of speed. Ha. Our workouts are open so anytime you'd like to come out, feel free. We meet on Monday evenings in Fed Hill for a 6-7 mile run with the Fed Hill Runners group. Tons of people, tons of different paces.

    Tuesdays are the fun night - track workouts and the like. We meet at Gilman at 6:30pm for a 2 mile warmup and then 7:00 start the workout. In the next few weeks we'll probably get off the track a little and do some other types of workouts as well, like hills, tempos, yada yada.

    Wednesdays a smaller group of us, usually about 5 or 6, meets for a 7 mile run from Canton Square. Usual pace for this is 6:30-6:45.

    We typically do our long runs (when we do them) at Patapsco at the same spot you start, Rolling Rd trailhead.

    So come on out, check out how we do things. Always better to run with others, helps you get faster!

  5. RM,
    So are you saying that you are responsible for the scorched spoons littering the gutters of Boston Street?
    Just kidding, I don't even know how one would do speed. I'm guessing the burnt spoons are from people doing crack or heroin.

    That all sounds good. Thanks for the invite. It will be a while before I could hang with the pace on Wednesdays, but the speedwork would help with that.

  6. I *think* you inject speed, but I'm not sure.

    You should come out for a Monday or Tuesday for now, those are pretty good, fun days to run.