The last three weeks at Upton House I’ve been taking the parkruns at a comfortable pace. It’s never felt too effortful as I run times in the mid-20s. About a mile into the run we have a steep downhill into the mini-loop and I just let my legs do whatever they want. I don’t go at it, I just take the brakes off and fly down the hill past those with more caution. I’ve seen myself hitting pace around 5:20-30 over the weeks. This interests me because a few years back I simply couldn’t go this fast even on downhills.
I was coming off a core muscle injury that forced me to take three months off. I’d tried to keep running but eventually I admitted defeat and took time off for it to heal. When I returned, I began to build up carefully. I deliberately didn’t do any speed sessions as I wanted to test whether I could build Endurance from the ground up – much like Maffetone suggests – long story short, you can’t but that’s for other days.
At the end of my second week I ran a tentative 33-min parkrun and the following week it was 29-minutes. I then went to visit friends and gave Chichester parkrun a try. It’s a surprisingly tough course, mostly on grass, around rugby pitches, with a gradual climb uphill before you run down a path back to the start-finish three times over. At the end of the third lap, I was sweating and came charging down into the finish trying to break twenty-seven minutes but couldn’t quite do it. What was surprising was my top end speed on this final downhill, going as fast as I could, trying to sprint, I could only hit 6:30/mile. Free energy yet I had nothing like the downhill speed I’m getting nowadays.
I’m not entirely sure what the reason behind this is other than it’s connected to being stronger and fitter than I was three years ago. I don’t think it’s that my legs are more resilient on the downhills but I do think they may be striding longer because of all the strides and speedwork I’ve been doing with my 800m training. I also have a much better aerobic base. My recent parkruns have felt comfortable while being faster than Chichester. At the latter, with all the hills and effort I was putting in I was working more anaerobically, which creates by-products that causes the legs to tie up. It may be this. Either way it’s nice to fly down the hills effortlessly.