Reawakening an old love: the mile run

As a running coach, I’ve apparently got a ways to go to capably instruct third-graders.

Case in point: I thought it would help Colleen to get an early baseline time on a 1-mile course she plans to race in July. But I forgot to take into account how “the long view” affects kids differently than adults.

“Look!” I said as we turned the corner on the 1-mile loop in downtown Berne that kicks off the Swiss Days 5K before converting to a kids race. “See that car crossing that street up there? That’s the halfway point!”

But what looked near to me struck her as impossibly far. Suddenly she wasn’t just running a mile — a distance she‘s generally comfortable with — she was carrying an unexpected burden.

And her time (which I am not allowed to reveal here) reflected it.

After she was done, I decided to get a baseline mile time for myself as well.  As I rounded that same corner, I realized I was carrying some mental baggage myself: Even as I was urging myself forward as fast as I could, another part of my brain was fretting about whether I could keep the pace. That “Nervous Nelly” might as well have been tugging on my shirt, because I felt certain she was slowing me down.

Afterward I joked with Colleen about finding a way to reduce mental drag and increase your speed by getting all the different parts of your brain focused on the same goal.

“What if you could trick your Nervous Nellie into thinking she was running for her life — like she was trying to escape from a bear or something?” I asked.

We got a good laugh out of that one, though I’m still not sure how you could implement something like that.

My time wound up being 8:35, which is about what I expected, I guess. I haven‘t been doing any speed work, and I haven‘t run a timed mile in something like forever.

Nervous Nelly aside, it was a lot of fun to run a short time trial like that. And fresh on the heels of watching Ben’s first 1600-meter race last week —  the first track meet I’ve seen in years — I suddenly found myself wondering if, with a little work (or maybe a lot) I could match or even beat my old 1600-meter time from back when I, like Ben, was on the 8th-grade track team.

My time then was around 7:11, I think. Embarrassingly slow for someone who aspired to be a “miler.”

On the other hand, if it had been much faster than I’d have no chance at all to delude myself into thinking I could match it now, more than 30 years later.

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