Paula, Pyramids and Practice by Emma Brear
Having taken part in a few races over the years I’ve come to terms that I won’t be the next Paula Radcliffe, but I still have a desire to get faster and bag the sub two hour half marathon time that continues to evade me (I blame Sheffield’s seven hills for this fact of course). So there was something warm and inviting about the thought of a brand new Striders intro to track session that really appealed to me. When I was heading over to the track at Chaucer School on week one, it occurred to me that the last time I’d done any running on a track was at secondary school where I was the least sporty kid and somehow managed to record a time of 15 minutes for the 1500m. I mean seriously, I must have had a nap halfway round to get that time!! So I was a little nervous about what to expect, but also rather excited and full of hope.
The session was led by Dave Palmer, Nancy Stuart and Jennifer Rich, with a great turnout of experienced runners wanting to mix up their training and newer runners looking to improve fitness and race times. After a bit of a warm up, Dave took us through some of the etiquette associated with track running – cadence, intervals, efforts and form. We then tried a short exercise to work out our cadence before getting into groups for a session of 6 x 400m. Apparently a cadence of 180 is good, so the fact the whole group got higher than this was really encouraging.
On week two, we knew more about what to expect .and that still didn’t put us off! The next session we did a full warm up before we got into a session of 800m with the faster group doing more repetitions. This felt more challenging than week one, particularly so with a strong wind on the back straight. We were warned on week one that the track at Chaucer could be inexplicably cold even in the middle of summer, so we’d all remembered our extra layers for the warm up! Lots of us noted how we’d improved our form on training runs since the week one session, particularly paying attention to our arm movements and how we could save energy by preventing rotation of the torso by making sure our arms came straight back by our sides. A simple change it seems but it makes such a big difference.
Ahead of the final session, Dave told us we were going to be doing pyramid sessions. Whether it was the thought of this or a hard race the previous evening, we were a smaller group on week three but still eager to put everything into it. There was a real sense of camaraderie in each group, as everyone worked together to get through the more challenge distances working up from 500 to 1200 and back again, as well as to remember what distance we were meant to be covering in each effort and where that meant we’d finish on the track – more of a feat than it sounds when you’re trying to push yourself to keep going! This is something I am sure will come with time, practice and experience however after a three week taster session it has filled me with a lot more confidence and has got rid of the initial fear I and no doubt others have about setting foot on a track for the first time.
I can’t encourage people enough to come along to these sessions and see for themselves.