Friday, September 12, 2008

Training With People

Earlier this week, I was doing a hill workout over at the Columbia Heights hill near the Promenade (over in Brooklyn Heights). It's a short, steep hill (maybe 150 meters, 8% grade? - I need to use a GPS to get this thing measured) - anyway, perfect for the shorter hill workouts.

So, my first four are run at: 42.6 seconds, 43.1, 42.5, 42.6. I'm feeling, a little fatigued, but thinking I'll do a couple of more. I'm also thinking that I'm getting a good workout.

I'm walking down the hill (remember, the knee injury, which I continue to baby) and I see another runner - male, early 20s, built like a runner, stretching out at the bottom of the hill. I'll call him Z. We start chatting and agree to push each other for the next few hills. I joke that I'm going to hold him back (though secretly thinking that maybe I can take him.) Hah.

The next hill is done at something under 39 seconds. We stayed together for the first 50 meters (Z was being nice), and then he accelerated away. He didn't break a sweat. We jog back down the hill, run another couple (both sub 41 for me, probably sub 37 for him). Z just moved from Manhattan, looking for some running ideas, racing thoughts. I wasn't planning on it, but run an eighth hill, again sub 41, but now totally gassed. I give him some ideas, hope we run into each other again.

The point of this post isn't to talk about my times on the Columbia Heights hill (which go from the street crossing at the base to the second tree at the top, right after the crest, if you really care). It's actually two different ideas:

-- First, one of the things I love about running and racing is that you get to meet so many different people. I find it perfectly natural to go up to complete strangers and talk to them, whether they just outkicked you at the finish line or you happen to be approaching the same water fountain). I learn so much just from talking to other runners, regardless of ability, age, or what not, because while they have a shared experience, it's also completely unique. My dry cleaner runs, which we realized after he passed me/I passed him at a cross country race a couple of years ago. Who'd a thunk it?

-- Secondly (and, the ultimate point): Training with people, especially those who are slightly better than you, will make you a better runner. Not only will they give you the mental and emotional support that you might not find when you train alone, they likely will push you to perform better. Z was great timing for me, because I got a much better workout. I've also found that the speed/tempo workouts that are so necessary to get to the next level are comparatively easier done with other people than by myself (others may find they excel without anyone around them, to be sure).

OK, so that said: Where do you find people to train with? I'll post some places, both club-oriented and free flowing, over the weekend. But also, keep in mind, it's also permissible to walk up to that person you've seen countless times every morning, running the same route, and strike up a conversation.


Sars said...

Hey there. :) I run with my best friend. We mostly run around the Fort Hamilton track or around Dyker Beach Golf Course. We just participated in our very first running event today, the Chris Hoban 5 miler. We are now going to start to train for a half marathon. You're right - running with someone who is better than you can be a big motivator.

Brooklyn Runner said...

That's wonderful.

There are a lot of great half marathons in the New York area - and of course, the Brooklyn Half sometime next March/April/May would be a great goal race.