Running MDRA Track Thursdays

You should do a track workout. Yes, you.

This idea of doing a coached group track workout is a little intimidating for some, maybe because it seems like something high school kids do. I didn’t run track in high school, or at all until I was 35. Public school PE had left me so self-conscious about doing anything at all athletic, I didn’t feel ready to attempt it until I was starting to get past the age of caring what other people think.

Luckily, in the town of Stage College where I lived as a beginner, a retired coach agreed to lead a beginners’ group in a series of non-threatening workouts. When I moved to Irvine, another coach led an early morning group in Laguna Beach. And here in the Twin Cities, the best place in the world to live and run, the Minnesota Distance Running Association offers a free workout for all abilities on Thursday nights. They’ve always found someone great to lead the group, and did I mention this is all free?

Here we are on July 10, my first workout of the season with them. Coach kindly takes the photo pre-workout so we look normal.

That’s me in the middle, in blue

This may be the largest group Track Thursdays has ever seen – 33 of us. Usually we get about half that many, but I guess nobody could resist this fun workout. We ran three sets of short intervals: 400 meters x 6 with 60 seconds rest, 300 meters with 45 seconds rest, 200 meters with 30 seconds rest, 3-4 minutes between sets. With so many runners and a wide range of abilities, you’d think it would be chaotic, but it went smoothly. I like having the option of either starting with a fast-ish group, or running slightly behind them on my own. Sometimes I end up running slightly behind no matter how I try, because I’m trying to keep up some very strong and consistent runners. It was at Track Thursdays I met several runners who have helped me a lot over the past few years.

Here’s a typical workout, with me tagging along behind Tom, Bobby and Bill like a kid sister trying to catch up. Sometimes I do catch up.
I like this aspect of track workouts; nobody really gets left behind.

Each workout begins with coach Laurie guiding us through a dynamic workout: Range of motion, hopping and skipping exercises that get us ready to go fast without strain. One of my track buddies gave me a golden nugget of advice: “It’s not about how fast you can run, it’s about how fast you can run without straining.” This principle will not only help you run a smarter race, it will help prevent injury. There’s no need to fear that a little fast running will increase your injury risk – you just need to be properly warmed up, listen to your body, and not try to do too much too soon.

I took this fun photo of me, fast track buddy Ed, and Coach for Facebook to caption “Coach tried to kill us!”
The workout was hard!
But there’s never any pressure to complete the whole workout or run faster than you’re prepared for.

I’m a fan of Coach Laurie’s workouts. They’re very challenging, but always adaptable. There have been times I’ve had to skip an interval or adjust my pace. Still, I usually leave confident that I’ll be stronger after recovering from the workout.

Here’s a good-looking group of runners from last year, making it look fun. It is fun.

At least a few of these track workouts will fit perfectly into my training plan this year. For the first one, I had no expectations but was happy to find that I could keep up with the big kids for most of the workout, and I ran all the intervals evenly at about the same pace I raced my last 5K or a little faster. I don’t think I could have done it without Bill keeping track of time and everyone shouting out encouragement.

In fact, it’s been proven that training with others is more effective for most people than training alone. If you’re like me, you have to do some of both, but your track buddies will keep you on pace, give you social support, and make the workout seem like more fun and less effort.

Thanks track buddies! I’m healthier because of you.


Running with Run Beer Repeat

There’s no shortage of running clubs in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the surrounding suburbs, so I’m going to start reviewing my favorites to help you sort them out. A good starting point is the fun group Run Beer Repeat, described on their website as “A craft beer club with a running problem.”

The plan is simple. Meet at a different brewery on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Gather outside the brewery at 6:20. Make introductions and go over the planned running route. Everyone runs 15 minutes out, 15 minutes back, so that everyone finishes at about the same time. How brilliant is that? Then the group, usually consisting of about 15-20 runners of various ages and abilities, can all gather for a beer afterward.

I ran with them tonight at Urban Growler. I’ve also joined them at Fair State and Venn. They make occasional field trips outside of the Twin Cities. If you’re serious about trying all of the ridiculously many breweries in the area, this is for you.

The lowdown:

What it is: An extremely easygoing mixed group of runners. Mostly non-competitive, most running close to 9-minute miles, though whatever your pace you’ll meet back at the brewery at at the same time, since it’s always an out-and-back 30 minutes.

When: First and Third Thursdays.

Where: A different brewery every time. Next run will be May 2 at Broken Clock.

Cost: Free. They’d like you to sign a waiver, that’s all.

For you if: You realize a moderate 30-minute workout is enough. You don’t particularly want to talk about a training plan. You don’t want any pressure, really. Maybe you’ve had a bad day and want to make it better.

Maybe not for you if: You do want to talk about your training plan, and you must run at least six miles every damn day, and it would hurt your precious feet to run slower than an 8-minute mile. Good for you. I’ll have a beer for you. You’re welcome.

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