Everybody needs a little. Some of us are lucky enough to get more than that. Like me, from my family, who fed me over Easter while I ran rings around their country town, and introduced me to the trails at the top of Table Mountain. And friends, who run with me to boxing in the middle of the day, or stay over at my house for a few days while in Cape Town to run the Two Oceans. And my wife, who joins me for runs on the green belt near my house each weekend, and makes me breakfast when I get back. You can call it help, or inspiration, or whatever you want, but everybody needs a little, and I get a lot.
At this stage of my FNB CT12 OneRun training, I’m doing short distances, really quickly. I think the point is to cut my 5K time trial down, one small run at a time, by 15 seconds here or another 20 there. For example, a Tuesday run will involve one easy kilometre, followed by two stretches of 2km each, at your 5K PB pace, minus 5 or 10 or 15 seconds. The aim is not to hit a targeted number but to train the body to endure, at speed, for longer each time.
According to the training guide, these short, quick runs encourage neuromuscular and cardiovascular adaptations. And what this means, according to Google, is that this kind of high-intensity, short duration exercise can rapidly improve good things like fast-twitch fibre behaviour, nerve-muscle connections and resistance to fatigue. In simpler English, this is called pounding the pavement.
What’s not in the training guide is how sore it gets, when you’re going as quickly as you can, or quicker, for day after day. In the shins and the knees, and oh man, the feet. And how lonely it can be, on the road, and how dark and horribly cold and wet, at this time of year.
I’ve been running in the same pair of shoes since forever. They’re reliable as hell, meaning I’ve put them through hell, and still sturdy – which is to say they’re about to fall apart. They used to be bright orange; now they’re a kind of ugly brown-black, courtesy of the road and the gym and everything in between. The soles, once a thick, hard rubber barrier between my feet and the road, have been tenderised into thin, tiny, token gestures.
Tar is a terrible thing. Trail isn’t much better. Pound this much of either, and you need more than a little support.
There’s a lot to like about the new Speed 600 Ignites from Puma. Like EverFit+, which locks your foot down and keeps your heel from slipping out, and Energy Return, a dual-layer midsole that’s responsive enough to make you feel like you’re bouncing up with each step, and specially engineered propulsion zone near the outsole that helps generate speed with each flick of the toe. They’re designed to provide cushioning, responsiveness and reinforcement.
Call these things whatever you want. I call them support, and I have a lot of it.
This morning I left my house at 6am, for a quick 6km run around Constantia. Probably made a bunch of noise doing it, too, while my wife slept. When I got home a half hour later she was up and making coffee, toast, scrambled eggs. I’m not even joking, there was even orange juice. I was wet, from the rain, and sweaty, and very very cold, and I ran into a hot shower. Later, I lay on my back on the carpet and she pushed my legs back, to stretch.
And I lay there, fed and warm, and realised, for the first time in weeks, there was no pain. Not in my shins, or knees, or even my feet.
Support. Everyone needs it. Some of us are lucky enough to get it.