Angela Bekkala: Loving, Hating Track Workouts

One of Angela Bekkala's favorite track workouts is the ladder. Photo: Angela Bekkala

There was once a time when I feared and loathed the track.

In my mind, a track was for people who were into short and speedy distances. That wasn’t me. Give me a long, slow distance run and I was a happy girl.

Plus, it just looked boring. Running on an oval over and over again? I want a change of scenery!

But then I signed up for a local road series that was full of mostly 5Ks. The first race of the series was actually my first 5K ever.

First impressions always leave a mark. And this one did. My lungs burned. I wanted to puke. My legs screamed at me.

In a sick sort of way, I kind of liked it.

Right then and there I decided if I wanted to get faster, it was time to ditch my usual way of speed work on the treadmill. It was time to hit the track.

Over the summer, my love/hate relationship grew for speed work.

I loved it mostly when it was over! Oh and maybe because it’s helped me get faster. It gave me a chance to work on leg turnover, breathing, pace, form and most importantly my mental running game. There are so many times in a race (of any distance) when the hurt comes that I check out mentally. I give up. Speed work has helped me embrace the suck. It sucks to be sucking wind and having all your muscles firing at one time. But it’s temporary. I can do anything for X amount of time. I always remind myself that whether it’s during Yasso 800s or mile repeats at a speed that I never thought my body could handle.

Speed work makes me feel stronger, able, confident.

That’s not to say it’s easy. It’s always hard work. I still get nervous the night before a speed workout. Will I be able to hit my paces? My legs aren’t that fast. What am I doing?

But then I’m at the track and I just do it. I try to stay in each lap and not think about how many more I have to do.

One of my favorite track workouts is the ladder. They are super easy to remember. There’s no need to count laps and the pace stays the same. Plus, it’s fun to build up the distance and then come back down. The last 400 is tiring but in my head I think “It’s only a 400m!” The mind games runners play!

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.

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