ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE.
Maybe I finally got an answer to my wanting a running partner, and it came from an unexpected source. Don and I have been running a few times together lately, something we hadn't been able (I hadn't been able) to do in the past. Either it was because he was too fast for me, or he was heavy into Ironman training, and still too fast for me. Even in his off seasons, I didn't have enough confidence to run with him, figuring it would pretty much kill me to go even his slowest pace.
This year, his off season has mainly been struggling through any kind of workout, due to the cancer drugs he's been taking now for several months. Not only do they sap a lot of his energy and strength, but side effects include aches and pains he wouldn't usually have. As I say, its been a struggle, both mentally and physically for him to even get out of bed some days. But he continues to do what he can and probably more often than the average person even under normal circumstances.
The week after my half marathon, I asked him casually if he wanted to go for a short run with me. My main intention was to get him out the door more than anything else. Surprisingly, he said yes. We only did a short run, a little over 2 miles, and I felt great. I don't really know how he felt, but I could tell he was glad to be done. After that, he continued to either go to the track and do short runs or to the Y track on a more regular basis. Monday morning we went again, pretty much the same run as before, yet he was having trouble with his Achilles, so had to stop frequently to stretch and walk it off.
So I was surprised when he asked me last night if I was running in the morning. I said I was but wanted to go longer this time. "That's all right. I'll do whatever you do."
I half expected then that we might do some walking if we were going to extend the run for him, which was okay with me. That's not exactly what happened though.
We started out at a comfortable pace, and the weather was quite comfortable too. A brief rain shower had fallen just before we went out, so the air was nice and clear, and the temperature was in the mid 50s but a little windy, so all in all quite nice.
The first part of the run I was directing him where I wanted to go. And its amazing when running with someone else how much faster the whole thing seems to go. Before I knew it, we were at our first stop at a cross street, but there wasn't any traffic so we kept on going.
The next part is slightly uphill, and this is where his troubles started the other day. At this point too I was thinking maybe we should walk a bit if we were going to run longer. I didn't need to yet, but I wanted to be prepared for later by saving my energy. Again, walking didn't happen. I asked him how he was feeling and he said he was feeling much better than the other day. Okay, we'll just keep at it, I thought.
By the time we got to the next cross street, I was again thinking we would (should) walk, but that was not happening apparently. He ran across the street, leaving me to wait for cars, and because I hesitated, I couldn't make it. So I continued until I could cross. By then, he had gotten about a block ahead. While he hasn't been running much, and his fitness level is way down, he still can run faster than me if he wants, so I was starting to worry a little that I was going to really have to push myself to catch up. Fortunately for me, he did stop a second to stretch, allowing me to catch up.
Then it was up another hill and down a straight stretch. Here, he began leading, and I realized I was falling a few steps behind and then catching back up. And wouldn't you know it, every time we came to a cross street, the traffic was spaced far enough apart so we didn't have to wait. I was really wanting a break, and I probably would have waited if I was alone, but I decided to stick with him as much as possible.
By the time we got within several blocks from home, I had decided there was no way I wanted to do 4 or 5, so was glad he was turning back. "So what do you think, about 3.5 when we get done?" he asked. I looked at my watch again and thought probably not. We were at 32 minutes (and by now it seemed MUCH longer). "I figure we're going a 10 or 10:30 pace," he said. I was breathing hard, not gasping, just working harder than I do when running alone. So maybe we would be doing 3.5? Was it possible?
When we got done and I looked at my watch, it was at 36 minutes, so its very likely we went 3.5 or even more, after I thought about the route and did some quick calculations.
Now I know that's not a blazing speed, but for me to finally break out of the 11 min. pace makes me realize how much easier it is to do that when someone else is pushing you along and the fact that I can actually do it. And I didn't even realize I was running faster until I stopped. And today I was definitely out of breath so I know I worked harder. It reminded me a little of those faster runs I used to do and how exhilirating it felt when done.
And Don is truly old school when it comes to running, meaning just like there's no crying in baseball, in running there's no walking. His belief is simple: You don't train to run by walking. Not that you can't walk if you're having a bad run, you just don't make it a habit. We don't exactly agree on that, but I understand his theory.
Of course this has me thinking if I can get him out there with me more often that maybe I can actually get a little faster within a month or so. He probably won't go any farther than 5 miles, but that would be a breakthrough for both of us, because I know I would be pushing through and running the full distance. And I think mentally it will give him a boost too. Trade offs are great!