Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Wed, 1 Mar 2000 08:58:56 -0500

Last-Minute Rush

(from RC 293)

Much of my running life has been spent seeking a healthy balance -- between work and rest, hard and easy, fast and slow, run and walk. My latest balancing act tries to insert a little bit of speed into most of my days.

Most runs have for a long time varied in pace from slow to slower to slowest. The only exception has been a near-weekly one mile for time. A week or more now seems too long to go between anything remotely fast.

I've dubbed my new attempt at striking balance as the "last-minute rush." It's literally that -- a single fast last minute of most days' runs.

Soon after starting this experiment, I found support for it from a highly placed source. Here's that story:

THIS WAS meant to be a media event, a kickoff news conference for the upcoming Millennathon 2000 event in Oakland, California. Most of the attendees were either reporters or race officials.

An exception was a man who placed himself as close to the speakers as he could sit. I later learned that his name is Searcy Barnett, one of area's fastest runners in their 50s.

He didn't come to hear news of the event. He came to ask advice.

Each of us at the front table spoke our piece. Then came questions.

Barnett saved his until last, letting reporters finish their jobs. He then said, "This question is for Regina."

Regina Jacobs was there to stir up interest in the Millennathon's kids run. She lives in Oakland. But of more interest to Barnett were her running credentials: three-time Olympian, two-time World Championships medalist in the 1500, American record-holder in the 5000.

"My question," asked Barnett, "is how you are able to hold onto your speed as you get older? I'm a lot older than you are, and whenever I do speedwork it's at the risk of getting hurt."

Jacobs will turn 37 in March. Last year she PRed in her shortest racing distance, the 800.

"That's an excellent question. Maybe you should ask this of Tom." She pointed toward the back of the room at her husband Tom Craig, who's also her coach.

"The older I get," she said, "the more careful I have to be about doing speedwork. It's essential, of course, but I run these sessions less often and at lower volume than I used to."

The answer seemed to end there. Then she added, "But I finish every run fast, even if only speeding up for the last 100 meters. This is a constant reminder to my legs of what they have to do in a race."

Your definition of "fast" isn't the same as Regina Jacobs'. But any step up from average pace can be a good one, even if the extra effort is brief.

You might up the pace for the last mile or kilometer. Or you might end the run at a track for a fast lap or with some striding of the straightaways.

Or you might just do what I've started doing lately. That's to finish your run with a last-minute rush.

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