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virtual challenge 2: the mile

Following on from the success of the first virtual challenge (5km with an ‘advantageous’ route), the #BVSC has launched their second target for virtual racing this Lockdown. This time there are options. Competitors can choose to re-run their 5km from last time with a view to improving the time. Alternatively, they can switch to the classic distance and enter the 1-mile time trial challenge.

Two years ago I chose to rebuild a foundation and have some fun again. I worked with Brian of Swaby Sessions on a targeted training programme. The aim: to bring my one-mile time down as much as we could. The plan was excellent. Loads of track sessions, gruelling and fruitful too. The structured training knocked many corners off my lumbering, speed over distance self. We finished the programme with a time trial paced by Brian and brought my mile down to 5:38. My fastest in nearly 20 years. Considering my fastest mile was 5:20-ish about 20 years ago and roughly 13kgs lighter, that’s a hell of an achievement. A testament to the training plan’s worth.

far from the mile I have focussed since

Since that focussed effort two years ago, my thoughts have been far from mile time trials. I’ve become a little obsessed with the marathon distance as you may have gathered if you read my blog regularly. I have not run a mile with singular focus since. However, my ears always prick up at the mention of a mile time trial. Also, I have worked some of my status check training sessions around the idea of one fast mile, albeit not a single mile effort. One cannot escape the allure of the mile. It’s as much a part of running as sand is to a beach. It defines the pure beauty of the sport.

While my training has focussed on longer distances recently, the classic distance still calls to me. However, while it calls to me, I’m not in any shape to really tackle it effectively. My training is not befitting the potential of a stellar effort for such a discipline.

so why did you sign up for a mile?

A good question. The answer of course is that I simply could not say no. For many reasons: a) nobody says no to a mile time trial when it’s on offer and b) my 5km effort from the first virtual challenge was as pure as I could achieve and it wouldn’t change in such short a space of time. Instead I have a chance to keep the interest in my running with a new goal. Goal is used loosely of course. I have not trained for this. I have just under 2 weeks to change training sessions and sharpen up a little – that’s it. Solely for the purpose of throwing down a marker of course. Nothing else is going to come from this.

The underlying reason as to why nobody (at least not me) says no to a mile time trial is curiosity. Everybody can run a mile whether it’s on a track, on a road, from danger, or from obligations! It’s a fantastic indicator of your running status. In the months leading up to what should have been the Tralee Marathon this year, I ran a session once per month as a checkpoint for heart rate and comfortable speed improvement. Very simply, I ran 2 miles easy, one 1 on the flat at full tilt, then 4.5 miles up a gradual hill at progressively faster splits (starting from easy pace rather than mile pace of course!). No rest periods; all performed as part of a single route. It provided some very interesting data.

Most interesting for the purposes of this post of course is that ‘hot’ mile in the middle of the session. The last time I ran it, before Tralee was cancelled, I clocked a 6:02. That’s ok but a far cry from the 5:38 I ran two years ago. Of course it’s a different animal too. No track, no spikes, two miles warm-up and straight in, and a much less prepared me. Still, it’s possibly the fastest mile I’ve run since that effort two years ago. I know it has been a long time since I ran sub-6 for sure.

my most recent status check session with a 'hot' mile thrown into the mix – can I improve?
my most recent status check session with a ‘hot’ mile thrown into the mix – can I improve?


Obviously I want to run the fastest mile I can – simple! However, given the shenanigans of the 5km challenge and the many ‘advantageous’ routes chosen by competitors, compared to the almost track-like flatness of the circuit I used, perhaps it’s time for me to have fun also. I’m a little torn on it to be honest. The purist in me wants to run a flat mile and record a valid time. The Lockdown fun-seeker wants a route that comes with a parachute advisory and really blow the lid on this. I concede that I am not fully decided which way I will go yet.

Either way, I want to break six minutes. This has become the de facto limit in recent times by virtue of having not dipped under it. Anything better than that would be an immense bonus but I’m counting on nothing. Of course if I do end up running downhill for a bit of fun, the time will be invalid. Que sera, sera! We shall see.

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