Half Marathon Training
Track Intervals, 7 x 2 km
A perfect spring morning at the track. The air is cool, but the warmth of the sun suggests the heat of the day to come. This is a long workout--no time to meditate on the beauty of nature. I started with four of these intervals, then six, and now seven. Some day soon I'll arrive at the track preparing to do 10. 50 laps. I still can't quite wrap my head around that.
The first interval. 88s quarters click by easily. Somebody else is doing 800s, and his coach is running back and forth along the infield diagonal to call out the 200 splits. When the rest 400m comes, he jogs it with his athlete. What would it be like to subsume your morning workout into someone else's, as this coach is clearly doing? Will I ever do that? Something else I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Too selfish right now, just preoccupied with my own bit. 7:22.
The second interval. Each lap is like a day. When I round the corner onto the home straight, the sun blinds me, a radiant dawn. When I turn away onto the back stretch, the light fades, and I feel as though the world has sunk into a cool dusky shadow. The laps feel too effortful, each day wearing me down a little too much. 7:25, slow.
Third interval. The 800m runner and his coach depart, transient wayfellows who are now following a different road. In the no-time that always accompanies track work, it feels like our paths have been crossing for years. I think about breathing, about the delicate homeostasis of my body as it rides along the edge of the anaerobic threshold. The 5th lap, the crowning of the year. 7:19.
Fourth interval. How long have I been doing this? It seems like forever. The days pass interminably, the sun spinning overhead, alternately blinding me and setting over my shoulder, my shadow making a gnomon of me as it counts out the time. The homeostat quivers, breath burns, legs burn. 7:25.
Fifth interval. Other travelers have appeared, slow perambulators. My days rush by them quickly, but we share a little time together. The year passes. Geese wait in the infield like well-mannered spectators, and then step across the home straight after I've passed. My breathing steadies. Homeostasis. 7:19.
Sixth interval. I've been doing this for years. As the strangers pass by me on their own journeys, I think of the 800 meter runner I knew in the beginning, in those long gone days. Whatever became of him? A little strength has trickled back into me, and I meet each day gladly. The sunrises turn the beads of sweat in my brow into shimmering crystal. I fight to keep my breath flowing smoothly, my strides flowing smoothly, an ageless current that lives forever in one place, with the days passing over it forever. 7:21.
Seventh interval. A septuagenarian now, I can barely remember my own beginnings, or the spry thoughtless strength of my youth. But it doesn't matter--after all these years I've found the trick of borrowing power from the world around me. The geese, the walkers, the dandelions blazing yellow on the infield. Nearby, the commuter rail trundles through, an epochal comet, muscled along by the diesel locomotive's burly power. I feel that power in my toes. I do not accelerate. Homeostasis. Breath like a river's flow. The last day dawns and sets, much like any other. 7:17.
Back in regular time, now. Already the little lifetime I spent on the track is fading in my memory, but I remember how endless it felt. Seven 2 kilometer intervals. What will ten be like? I chew on that thought as I turn off the track and begin the 4 klick jog home.