A nine-year-old fourth grader named Courtney taught me a lesson this week.
Every Tuesday night, I run "intervals" at Florida State University's Mike Long Track. An intervals workout is a combination of intense effort interspersed with timed stretches of recovery; our workouts add up to three miles. It is the hardest half hour of each week for me, but the one that yields the most results in my running.
This past Tuesday, Courtney and her mom approached me when I arrived. The mom said, "she's supposed to run with you." I am sure I gave her a blank look because I am always the slowest person at intervals - no one ever says "do what Paula does." It turns out it was Courtney's first night at intervals.
It wasn't just Courtney's first night at intervals, it was Courtney's first time ever to run on a track. (Prior to Tuesday she had only run on the field at school.)
The workout that night ended up being "handicap 400's," meaning the slowest of us started at the 350 meter mark; the next group started at the 400 mark, and the fastest people started at the 450 mark. We ran ten laps, with 40 seconds between the finish of the slowest person (yours truly) and the start of the next lap.
When Lap One started, Courtney was off! The girl is a runner. She was soon out of my sights.
Over the course of the workout, I observed:
- a fast young runner
- Courtney not losing faith when she had a side stitch; she kept on putting one foot in front of the other
- Courtney walking sometimes but still walking toward the finish line
I heard Courtney say:
- Something like, Yeah, if you go out too fast you use all your energy up
- I'm gonna be sore tomorrow
- This is fun!
The list of things I fixate on about intervals as the time comes closer is lengthy: will I be the slowest? (I usually am); will I barf? will I injure myself? will I be embarrassed? Can I stand taller? Can I step more lightly? Can my cadence be more rapid? Can my form be better? Will I breathe okay? Are people watching me? Will I ever break 2:00 for a 400? Will I ever break 9:40 for a mile? (I need this to meet my 29:59 or under 5K goal). The list goes on and on.
Courtney's list, from which I drew an important reminder lesson, is short: