As a non-runner, I really struggled with how to begin training for Off The Beaten Track, the tough team race I have entered next week.
It took a really long time to begin training for the one-of-a-kind off-road race.
Preparation is key. Not only daily preparation, but planning from before you have taken your first step. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
One of the most important steps I have taken is to download a really useful training podcast that combines music with voice prompts letting me know when to start running and when to walk.
Each morning the podcast helps to keep me on track and the music makes it easy to take my mind off things.
Weeks 2-5 are fairly similar in that the three-day-a-week running plan includes intervals of running and walking. Jog for three minutes, walk for three minutes, repeating this three times. Each week, the running time is slightly increased with shortened walk times in between. Jog for five minutes, walk for three minutes, repeating a total of three times.
I find this type of training ideal as with each run I successfully complete, I gain in confidence, while at the same time, my endurance is building at a steady pace.
Who can argue with a training plan that has you running for only a few minutes at a time and is always just about 30 minutes in total? It seems a bit too easy, but I am happy with it and will keep it up.
Week six, the runs get a little longer but still begin with a five minute brisk walking warm-up. I am now running for 10 minutes straight and walking for three minutes in between, followed by another 10 minute run and a final 5 minute cool down.
The last run of the week and now I’m running for 20 minutes straight followed by a five minute cool down. I am so proud of myself that I can complete this run without stopping. I know I am not running as fast, or as far, but I am running and not quitting.
During my cool down, my mind wanders to thoughts of whether my seeming addiction to Ibuprofen should continue.
After running, I continue drinking as much water as I can and make the decision to wean myself off my Ibuprofen habit after each run. I now wait until the next morning, only taking it to keep the stiffness away. Physically, I feel so much better and I have much more energy than I did in the past.
The plan for weeks seven and eight will have me running for 25 and 28 minutes at a time. This should push me to be at about 2½ to 2¾ miles, which equals to about half of what one leg of the actual off The Beaten Track race will be. I hope that I am going to be ready for this. Doubt slowly creeps in, but I shove it back into its box and firmly shut the lid.
One thing about running is that after a while, you need a little mental stimulation along the way. Face it, Cayman is beautiful, but seeing the same tree over and over can get a little old.
Many runners I have talked to play mind games to keep their thoughts from focusing on the monotony of putting one foot in front of the other.
Some count to 100 then start over. I sing. A podcast can help with this. I sing loudly much to the chagrin of others.
I try not to hurt their ears, but when I’m in training I find myself singing with wild abandon (trust me; it’s not something you want to hear). It is also the ideal time to make a mental grocery list.
While playing mind games can keep you going, it is important to stay alert and aware of your surroundings to avoid running off the path, tripping over uneven surfaces, or just plain getting lost. This is huge. Off The Beaten Track on 24 February cuts across pretty unchartered territory, even for the seasoned runners. There won’t be a lot of signage to mark the route and I will have to really study the course beforehand.
I have set myself two goals: complete my portion without walking or stopping and not get lost.
I know, it’s a small island and generally it’s pretty easy to navigate, but having looked at last year’s map and spoken to some veteran runners, I’m worried and excited. So, if you see me singing loudly to myself while running in circles, stop me and set me straight!
Runner Cherish Duty is writing a weekly column for the Caymanian Compass on her preparations for the Off the Beaten Track run.