Wed-nes-die and Live

Wednesday speedwork: 16 x 400s

A seemingly innocuous workout. I like 400s as a distance. It’s short. And it’s over before it really stresses you. Yes, the number of reps could be a bit of a challenge but then I’m a distance runner. I have endurance. Only that it’s been 2 months since I’ve done any form of serious running. And I really don’t think endurance is something that I can summon at will! But I banish that thought in one second. This would be fun and I looked forward to it.

(Let me backtrack a week, to the speed work of last Wednesday. 8x1km repeats. That workout was disastrous with only 4 of the required laps happening at the required speed. The other laps failed for varying reasons- head wind, speed and my head. Rahul and Mulraj had, of course, breezed through that workout.)

Despite all my bravado, I began today’s workout on the back foot. There were 5 of us, Mulraj, Rahul, Amit, Russa, me, with Russa having 12 reps (versus our 16). 12 seemed like such a nice number. The first crack.

Lap 1-5: The first few laps were fairly rhythmic. We ran as a pack. We planned to do 6 reps out onto Marine drive and 6 back. Russa would stop as we returned to the starting signal and the rest of us would go back for 2 more each way. It was under control. We began slowly and built up the pace. It was going to be a good day!

Lap 6: This, last one, on our way out, was against head wind. That was the beginning of the end. It was really difficult and my mind went into a cloud of doubt. My lack of discipline and training over the last 2 months came flashing back and I crumbled.

Lap 7: I managed to hold my own and get some rhythm, thought, maybe I will make it through this. But in the next instant the meandering continued…Why is it so humid? Where is the rain? How will I sustain the pace? 

Lap 8: This is when the real game began. More headwind. More fatigue. More struggle. I kept checking the distance on my watch. 258m. Horror of horrors! 142m more. That I could subtract with such ease freaked me out. Just run dammit! 

Lap 9: Even stronger headwind. Confidence dropped. Doubt increased. The fault line widened. And I heard a shriek…Stop at 12! You can’t do more. Then a whisper… You’ve been chilling since the last 2 months. So how did you plan on getting through this? And a smirk! You struggled last week too!

My mind had a mind of its own! I could think so much in 20 seconds!!!??? If I just focused all my energy on running I could have shaved off a few seconds!

And it did not help that Mulraj counted down the rest. “3-2-1… Let’s go.” Dude, give it a rest! Five more seconds of rest won’t change your life in any way. But there was no respite. Lap after lap his summon whipped us to start. (Just because you are in top form!)

Lap 10: Oh god! What was this? Was the wind pushing me back or my legs had stopped moving? I was supposed to go forward. Good thing I’m stopping after 2 more. I really cannot kill myself like this! 

During the rest I announce to the boys, “I need more rest.”

“You get it after 12, for the last 4.” After all these years Rahul knew how to handle my drama!

“But I’m only doing 12,” I retort.

“No,” he replies, “You are doing all 16.”

“I will die before that” I say.

But the words were lost in the breeze as they blasted off and I scrambled behind them.

Lap 11: Not bad. I am only a few steps behind them. 216 m. 327 m. 394m. Oh, thank god it’s over! I press the lap button at 401m.

Lap 12: I began this lap with the thought that it was going to be my last one. I would stop with Russa and end this torture. I’m really not fit. After all this settled in my head I ran a comfortable lap shoulder-to-shoulder them. I could stop now. 

But no such luck. Rahul simply said, “5 extra seconds of rest and off we go.” Mulraj indulged me like a child and after 35 seconds, with my heart still racing, we were off.

Lap 13: Ok! So 2 more. I will stop at 14. I bargained with myself. Chalo. Let this one roll. It’s not as bad as I imagined. 234m. 280m. 400m is so far! Suddenly it was 381m. Soon time to stop. Maybe not that far.

Lap 14: My mojo was back. And an old quote came to mind. Most people don’t run long enough to find their second wind. Today was that for me. I ran after I thought I couldn’t run any more. And with that wisdom this 400m just breezed by.

Amit says 2 more. I just nodded in agreement. I was seriously surprised that I had come this far. I would finish all 16 of them. Too good. The bloody rest is so short. Go. Go. Go.

Lap 15: Okay. Let’s do this. I am a runner. And I need to finish it. Oh, Marine Drive is so beautiful. Oh wow, 328m already done. This will finish soon. 30 more seconds and I will be done with this one. 

Lap 16: Yay, it’s going end. The last one! I will begin slow and pick up after every 100m. And kill it. The ridiculous me was strategizing in the last rep. I could see the boys zooming ahead of me. Something came over me and I shifted into cruise control. Then ever so smoothly, unknowingly, I ran past Amit, as I pushed the lap button on my watch. 402m done. All done.

“Go for it when you see the finish. You cannot let it go here!”

I was in the moment. I felt that I lived in each every second of 120 seconds of the 400m. I felt it in my sweat. And in each heartbeat. In each stride.

And I learnt so much during my cooldown towards home.

How fickle the human mind is.

We have all the strength we need within us. We just need to find it.

The power of a group which is headed in the same direction is immense.

We derive strength from each other.


Rahul and Mulraj have trained all through summer. And I have just decided to tag along with them since I returned from my trip. I have these doubts as for the first time ever (in the last 3 years) as I have simply jumped into the fray, I have not built up to these paces or distances. I’m just pulling along. Scrappily doing whatever I can. I am one who executes with planning. Being pushed into a situation unnerves me. But I am learning to cope. And am doing the best I can. I guess this is how that kid feels who goes unprepared to an exam. You make the best of what you can. Some days you luck out, the other days teach you…





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