Pacing, Fartleks, and the Youth of our Sport

Last night I went to Run Club with Lifetime and got a fun unexpected surprise. It turns out the gals who were signed up to run the Esprit de She were there doing their training, too! I am signed up to participate in the Cherry Creek Esprit de She 10k in July, so I thought this would be a really fun option to our standard run club!

I took off at my comfy longer distance pace (a nice 10:45-11:30) because I had it in my mind that I would  be running 4 miles to finish off my training for the Bolder Boulder 10k that is taking place on Memorial day. (If you are local to Denver and have never heard of the BB10k, there’s a chance your TV/internet/ears are broken or you live under a rock… 🙂 )

I headed out and plugged along, still getting used to running without music, and in no time I passed a young gal. I hit 2 miles out and turned around, right in front of her and smiled and waved.  As I got a little further away I heard Emily, one of the coaches, call my name. I ran back to her, noticing the girl in the distance behind her. It turns out this young lady was 12 and Emily was helping her learn pacing. She asked if I would join them and help encourage her. I was honored. I thought of how many times people held back to teach and encourage me and now it was my time to repay the favor. Anyone who tells you the running community isn’t the most supportive one out there is a liar.

I hung back and E (name protected because I don’t have her mom’s expressed permission to write about her) caught up to us. Emily and I took turns talking to her about steady runs versus sprints, burning all the gas in the tank, and being able to carry on a conversation while maintaining this pace. E was all smiles- I think she liked having other women with her telling her we believed in her. I thought back to my 12 year old self and thought how wonderful it was to have the same encouragement from my Girl Scout leaders.

As we were starting to make our way back to the club I got a giggle out of E as I explained what fartleks were, and if she really wanted to sprint, she should try those out to play with her speed. She thought the name was silly, and I told her that if her mom was upset with that word, not to blame me- blame the Swedish. It was likely their fault.

About a quarter mile from the end she said to me that she had asthma and that made it hard. I told her that I do too, and if you listen well to your body (and your doctor, of course) you should be able to hold a slow steady pace all day long. That’s how I ran my marathon! She smiled and laughed- I just wanted her to know that a lot of times it’s our mind trying to convince us to stop, we need to truly listen to our bodies!

E and I got within a block or so of the club (we had caught up to her mom) and I looked at her and asked if she wanted to fartlek to the finish and I’ll be darned if that young lady didn’t grow legs twice as long as mine and take off. I shouted “Dang girl! You run like a gazelle!” and I tried to keep up with her.

All in all it wasn’t the run that I was expecting to have, but I felt so encouraged by being able to come alongside a young girl and support her as she tries out something I love.

My hope is that she is able to find the same passion that the rest of us did- that she will keep on showing up and pushing her body to the edge.

I think that’s what the Esprit de She (the spirit of her) is all about 🙂


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