The 5 Year Plan and the Missing Piece

By Laura Wiatt, FHR member since July 2013, Thursday night track/hills co-leader.

The 5 year plan and the Missing Piece: Dream big, do things that scare you, and run for yourself (with the support of a community).

I fell in love specifically with indoor track in high school.  I love the weird distances (ex. 50yd, 300m, 500m, 600m...) and close knit team atmosphere. After some negative experiences through my high school years, I was left with a sour taste for track senior year.  Then, I left it all behind when I went to college to devote myself to art.

Painting from a picture I took during one of my first runs up Peter's Hill in the Arboretum.

Painting from a picture I took during one of my first runs up Peter's Hill in the Arboretum.

Fast forward twelve years, I knew some thing was missing from my life.  I couldn't quite place it. I am a working artist doing what I love, but honestly I've never identified with being an "artist."  But, that would happen with time, right?  I had always identified with being an athlete.  

I started jogging a few times a week, playing tennis, golf, and just trying to be active (ok and to lose some weight for my wedding).  Then one day I decided to see how fast I could go for the last straight section on my run.  Boy had it had been a while, but something clicked.  It was that feeling, a moment in time when your body is completely in sync, moving at your (current) top speed and time slows down around you.  This is what I fell in love with as a kid. This feeling.

In 2011, I started enjoying running again.  After a talk with my friend about the Boston Marathon being on my bucket list, she convinced me to start smaller and train for my first half.  Alright, better now than never.  I also decided to run my first 5k, 5mi, and 10k road races in training for my half.  So scary!  All distances I never thought I'd race.  My husband and I still joke about how awful my body felt after my first 5k, but I did it.  My return to racing was a respectable, but painful 26:03 (8:23/mi) 5k.  

Nervous for the start of my first 5k, can you tell?!

Nervous for the start of my first 5k, can you tell?!

At first, I remember looking at friends' times thinking, "wow, that's fast. I don't think I'll ever be that fast."  I quickly shut those thoughts out remembering that I was running for me, to regain my love of running.  And, to hold onto it this time.   It's never about anyone else; it's always about you.  

I had fun along the way training for my half and was happy to complete it without stopping in 2:02.  Now what?  I enjoyed the shorter races.  I decided to make an aggressive 5 year plan for the 5k to push myself in the direction of constantly improving: 7:30/mi in 2012, 7:00/mi in 2013, 6:30/mi in 2014, and in 2015...6:00/mi.  At the time, I had no clue if this sort of improvement was even possible, never mind on this timeline. (I am sharing my 5 year plan in the spirit of putting yourself and putting your goals out there like Shalane Flannigan, but also to show how adding track work has helped me grow in speed and strength.)

Meeting Shalane at November Project Hills.

Meeting Shalane at November Project Hills.

With new found goals for 2012, I decided I needed to start running with people, and my friend suggested I try November Project. I began to #raceeverything and just get more excited about pushing my limits and sparking my competitive nature.  Training with the tribe brought my 5k down to 23:42(7:37/mi) for 2012, just shy of my year goal.

I realized I needed to ask for help.  After talking to people about how to get faster for 5ks it seemed that I was missing a major component, track work. November Project leader Brogan Graham directed me to Owen Kendall and the great work he was doing with the Forest Hills Runners.

My first workout with FHR was a tempo run (wtf is that) in July 2013 and the track workout that followed on Thursday.  Yes, it was a little intimidating and we never are where we want to be, but I just showed up and met some amazing people.  And I kept showing up.  I was having so much fun and looking forward to improving a little bit each week.

Apparently this was exactly what my training was missing, because in the first year of starting track and tempo with FHR (July 2013 - July 2014) my 5k time dropped to 6:27/mi (during a 5 miler!).  After 17 months, my half marathon time dropped to 1:32:31 and my 5k dropped to 19:30 (6:16/mi and slightly ahead on my 5 year plan).  I even ran the Boston Marathon!  I could not have done this without the support of my family and FHR pushing me on my tempos and track workouts, and indulging me when I asked for company on something crazy (ex. The Michigan workout with Marc!).

With all this fun, I started to regret missing out on the whole college track experience.  You can have regrets, or you can do something about them.  I was ready to do something! After hearing about the BU mini meets in 2013, I decided I would see what they were all about in 2014, and was joined by Dave, Gavin, Maartje, Matt, and Owen.  I chose a distance I've never trained or raced for, so there were no expectations and a new journey to embark on. The 800m seemed like the logical next step up from the 400m, which I had grown a hatred for and vowed never to race again. This meant digging deep to find the speed in my legs that I hadn't really called on in many years.  

We went to our first meet at the end of January.  It was a starting point, to shake off the nerves and just get the experience of a 800m race under my belt.  Yikes!  Not what I expected, but I did get just barely under my goal of 2:30.  FHR competed at a total of four meets this year, and they were everything I hoped they'd be.  There is a certain air that surrounds the track on race day, similar to the start of a road race, but contained, and you can feel it during the entire meet.  It brings out the best in you, and often more than you thought possible.  I got faster every meet and was happy to see my training pay off.  And, yes I got to line up next to girls a decade (and sometimes more, eek!!) younger than me and get that college meet experience!

Racing the 800m.

Racing the 800m.

Our last meet was the USATF New England Indoor Championship.  I ran my current 800m PR of 2:24.  I was content with my race and improvement, but the highlight of the meet was far and away the Men's distance medley relay. The relay usually consists of 1200m, 400m, 800m,1600m (note: Harvard's track is 220yds not the standard 200m, so the distances were slightly longer).  Dave, Matt, and Owen were ready to go, but their fourth member had to drop out.  We searched the stands to find someone, anyone to join the team.  In a last ditch effort we asked the officials if I could run with the team, and they said we would be disqualified.  So... maybe Owen could run the 400 and mile??! Then, right after I took my spikes off, the USATFNE President comes up into the stands, and he says it's ok for me to run on the men's team.  Phew, no pressure right?  

With the support of the officials and some confused looks from the competitors, we placed 3rd!! Strong legs were had by all, a great team effort, and followed by big smiles!! We had just earned FHR's first USATF points as a team.  This was it, this is what I've been missing.  I absolutely missed the track, but more importantly I missed achieving my goals as part of a team.

FHR Men's Distance Medley Team

FHR Men's Distance Medley Team

Come check out a track workout!  No pressure, of course.  Start small, do what you can, and just have fun.  We aren't timing you and counting your laps, we just want to help you reach your goals, so dream big!  

- Each week we will be updating this blog with personal stories from fellow runners, race recaps, training tips, recipes, and more! If you are interested in becoming a blog contributor, please contact Katie Merrill at merrill.kathryn@gmail.com for more information. And remember, as Owen says, Be Amazing! -

Posted on March 16, 2015 .