How speedwork is like music

Many eons ago, I sang in my college choir. I didn’t have a great voice, but I had fun and tried to keep up.

One day, the choral director gave us a piece of advice that I remembered this morning, for some strange reason, as I did speedwork.

The director told us that whenever we sang a section marked crescendo, we should take care to increase our volume gradually, not all at once. The natural temptation, he said, is to belt out the music, but we should patiently and carefully build up the volume.

“If you give it everything you have at the beginning , you’ll have no where to go at the end,” he said.

So it was with my little drill today, the Pine Loop repeats.

I run this workout once a week. It takes only a half-hour, but it builds in intensity, as I run a neighborhood loop, a little under a half-mile, faster and faster and faster.

I can’t start it at top speed. I have to build up gradually, so I have something left at the end.

By the last two or three repeats, I can feel my heart hammering and my breathing get quicker. I feel like I’ve built up my crescendo over several minutes.

I ran eight repeats today, one more than last week.

Here are my times:

Loop 1 — 3:25 (8:32 pace)

Loop 2 — 3:13 (8:02 pace)

Loop 3 — 3:02 (7:35 pace)

Loop 4 — 2:55 (7:17 pace)

Loop 5 — 2:51 (7:07 pace)

Loop 6 — 2:52 (7:10 pace) (Damn, this repeat was slower)

Loop 7 — 2:45 (6:52 pace)

Loop 8 — 2:34 (6:25 pace)

Yes, there’s a time and a place for steady-state speedwork. Doing Yasso 800s, for example, requires you to run at a constant speed.

But this is different. It’s my own drill, with no rest intervals, and a challenge to see if I can do each repeat faster.

So I built up gradually, and on all but one repeat, succeeded.

I think my choir director would have approved.


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