Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Ready to Run

The Joy of Speedwork

Published May 8, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

The sun stood high in the middle of an unblemished blue sky. The budding trees shivered in the gentle breeze. The B-52 spread its majestic wings at a nearby field in memory of those who served. I fidgeted at my keyboard waiting for my noontime date.

My computer, my window to the world, brought conflicting running news. Yesterday, Khalid Khannouchi swore allegiance to the flag of the United States. Today, Khannouchi's emotions burst through the screen as he passed up the US Olympic marathon trials.

Amidst the drama, Runner's World graduated a legion of typists to cover the trials live, using Sans Serif font, faster than any runner could type. On the television front, tape delay took on a new meaning. USATF proudly announced that highlights of the last February's women's marathon Olympic Trials will be aired next June.

Impatience got the better of me. I drove early towards the gymnasium. As I changed, my heart pounded rapidly in my chest. Over the sound system, Faith Hill coached me in song to "Just Breathe". I donned my new running shoes and walked into the sun. I stood between an old cinder track to my left and green meadows to my right.

On such a glorious day, I usually ran for the fields. Yet on this day, I felt her drawing me towards the track. I jogged tentatively a few laps, as beads of sweat formed on my face. I took off my watch and held it in my hand. As I approached the line on the ground my feet took off and I let go. I sprinted halfway around the track and stopped the watch. Thirty-eight four. She smiled.

I jogged back to the other side of the track, and repeated the routine. Thirty-nine six. "Looking good", she mumbled. I jogged again towards the start. There I went again with all I had. Thirty-eight eight. My mouth could not draw air fast enough. My lungs hurt. My legs burned. Three down, three to go.

"Don't hurt yourself", she whispered. "Come on. Let's go". I walked back to the start. My new shoes felt tight around the ankle. I loosened them a bit. I took a deep breath and charged across the line. The voice of Faith rang in my ears "Just Breathe". I pushed harder down the stretch and struggled across the finish. Thirty-nine nine. "Two to go".

My heart pounded louder in my chest. I could hear it over my heavy breathing. Lactic acid build-up competed with my oxygen-depleted brain for the honor of bringing me misery. I resumed my sprint. Thirty-nine two. She nodded in approval.

I walked slowly and deliberately towards my final sprint. I took my time, as the sun burned on my face. "Last one, let's go," she cheered. Treading on my toes I raced across the start. I ran as hard as I could. As my spirits loosened and my muscles tightened, I pushed harder. I staggered across the line and crumbled on knees. Thirty-five flat, 192 beats per minute. My uncalibrated heart raced past its theoretical maximum rate.

I lied on the ground as my chest jumped up and down. My eyelids could not block the bright sun. A bright light enveloped my existence. Endorphines lifted my spirits into a new state of being. Oh ecstacy!

I warmed down by walking to the shower. Burning hot water soothed my ungrateful legs. It had been a year since my last speed workout. Back then, I was younger and faster, and ran many more intervals. Today, I felt like a born-again runner. A large serving of hot greens and plenty of bread satisfied my soul. I looked at my watch and reviewed my times. They looked even better as I emptied my plate. My training was back on track. As I drove towards the lab, I turned on the car radio. The Dixie Chicks sang "Ready to Run". Ready, I am!

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at

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