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Overcoming My Night Running Fear
Just about every week, I get an email or Facebook message from Coach Cane or Mrs. Coach Cane.
On Thursday nights, Coach Cane holds group runs with his City Coach team. The group is stocked with world-class triathletes who win stuff all the time.
For an average-but-trying-to-get-faster runner such as myself, that’s a little intimidating.
But I recognize how lucky I am to have people like Coach Cane and Mrs. Coach Cane in my world. Run For The Rabbit ended months ago, but they’re both still willing to help me get better, stronger, faster and smarter. I would be stupid if I passed up these opportunities to train with them, right?
Even though I’m scared of running at night…and even though I know whenever I go to the group runs I will undoubtedly be the slowest in the bunch…
Yes, Ali. Man up.
I have run with the City Coach group twice before: The first time was during Hamptons Marathon training and I was psyched to see what team runs were all about.
But then there was the second time.
Oh, the second time.
That run was Day 1 of a very nasty Crohn’s flare-up. That run was bad. That run made me never want to run with other people again.
So it had been a while since I had accepted an invitation from Coach Cane to run with his people. I always found excuses: “I ran this morning, sorry!” “My stomach hurts.” “I’m going to yoga instead.” “I have to stay home and eat brownies. You understand, right? Eating brownies is basically the same as doing speedwork.”
Last night I made my return to the City Coach running group, and I loved it!
I wasn’t sure what to eat all day because night running really does continue to baffle me. When I left work around 5 pm, the last thing I wanted to do was go for a run. I wanted to go for a “lay down on the couch” instead.
The group runs start at the JackRabbit Sports Upper West Side store, so I slipped into my legwarmers (obviously if you’re training alongside the winners of various road races, you should dress in your most hardcore running gear) and jogged — slowly — 2.5 miles from my apartment to the store.
As the group started to assemble, I chatted with people.
I met one nice young woman, for example, who introduced herself as Deanna. She was very sweet and asked me how long I had known Coach Cane.
“Not too long,” I told her.
She asked me what I’m training for at the moment and I replied, “Nothing, actually. I’m still debating a spring marathon but I’m having a hard time deciding. What about you? Are you training for something right now?”
“Yes,” she told me. “I have a spring marathon coming up.”
“Oh! That’s exciting!” says innocent, naive Ali. “Which one?!”
She kind of mumbled something quietly and I couldn’t hear her response.
“Sorry, which one?” I had to ask.
“The Boston…The Boston Marathon.”
“Yup. I’ve heard of it.”
People trickled in, and they were all super nice and, from what I quickly gathered, very, very fast — and way way way too modest — runners. (Brag more, people! You’re all so impressive!)
Coach Cane arrived with this little guy in tow:
He (Coach Cane, not Simon — Simon’s vocabulary is still somewhat limited) explained the night’s workout to us before kicking us out the door:
- Warm-up jog from the store into Central Park and across the 72nd Street Transverse to the east side
- Run a counter-clockwise lower loop of the park + an additional jaunt across the Transverse (2 miles total) at marathon goal pace (I was shooting for 8:45 here)
- Jog back over the Transverse to recover, bringing you back to the east side again
- Run the 4-mile loop of the park counter-clockwise at half marathon goal pace (7:50s would have been ideal for me here)
- Cool-down jog back to the store
My legs weren’t super fresh going into last night’s run. I’ve put in some reasonably tough workouts this week and I’m definitely feeling it. But I still wanted to push myself and run hard.
I also didn’t want the group to have to wait hours for me at the end. So I had to at least try to run fast.
I ran the first loop not at marathon goal pace at all. I felt good, as I always do, and I was like, “Hey! I can keep up with some people in this group!”
Apparently I will never learn.
I was really worried about my stomach being weird, but it felt fine for a while.
It wasn’t until I finished the first pickup that I lost the group and, as I cruised up Cat Hill attempting my half marathon goal pace, my stomach freaked out. I had to come to an immediate stop halfway up the hill and stand there for a few seconds until my stomach settled.
But then I was fine. And then I ran.
The counter-clockwise loop has lots of downhill sections, so I obviously felt great on those. I didn’t quite hit my half marathon goal pace on average, but I’m not too beat up over it considering the other fast runs I’ve had this week.
All in due time.
As I brought up the rear and was the last person to assemble at the Transverse, everyone high fived me and told me I did a great job.
They are the nicest, most encouraging people ever.
We jogged back to the store and I chatted with a couple that lives in my neighborhood. I asked them what they’re training for and I guess I was mildly impressed or whatever.
First up for both of them: Boston Marathon.
Then the New York City Ironman.
No big deal. I offered to pace them in Boston. They didn’t seem to need my help though.
And then, after the run, we all got to hang out with Simon some more.
In total, I covered 10 miles last night. My splits were all over the place, and I want to focus on becoming a more consistent runner this year. I tend to speed up and slow down way too much when I run in even mildly hilly areas, so there’s lots of room for improvement there.
I’m proud of myself for again getting out of my comfort zone. I usually do everything I can to avoid running at night, and I was apprehensive about joining Coach Cane’s runners for their first team workout of the new year. Everyone was so great though, and they made me want to work even harder.
I can’t wait to train with them again.
Today I challenge you all: Do something a little bit scary. Maybe you’re afraid of trying that spin class at your gym, or perhaps you’re afraid of eating an entire carton of ice cream for dinner tonight (don’t be, it’s a good idea, I assure you). Are you scared of walking underneath a ladder because it’s Friday the 13th? Don’t be! If you’re afraid of pushing yourself — really pushing yourself — when you run, I challenge you to pick up the pace, even if it’s just for 30 seconds.
I bet you’ll feel awesome afterward.
Let me know how it goes. Good luck!