Community Post: My Summer of Speed

I began working with Coach Caleb in 2013, and for six years, I trained exclusively to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It was a protracted pursuit, too often disrupted by the dramatic life implosions that are requisite to living out your 20’s in New York. However, this past April, I finally accomplished my goal in Paris. Crossing the finish line was gloriously unattractive; some clever internet sleuthing will show me happily sobbing and dry-heaving bile all over the Champs-Élysées. Returning to the States, I was ready for a literal change in pace, but even so, I had no idea what racing shorter distances would look or feel like. As the season winds to a close, here are just a few reflections on how this shift in training has had a positive cascading effect on my running.


Since May, I’ve spent almost every Thursday evening grinding it out with my local running club at the East River Park Track in Manhattan. Ironically, I’ve consistently struggled with running consistently. This summer, I built a new and sustainable routine around my unexpected love of form drills, repeats, and lap splits. Circling the track has been hardly mindless; I’ve learned that there are different gears of fast to play with, across a variety of distances and pain thresholds. I’ve also been inspired, encouraged, and motivated by my teammates. No matter our paces, we all pound it out around the same unforgiving rubber ring. We show up, do the work, and beer it out afterwards. It’s a ritual I run towards every week.


Sans fall marathon, I’ve also had more time and energy to compete. This summer, I averaged two races a month, covering the mile, 5K, 5M, and 10K distances. Among them, I ran my first distance medley, beer mile relay, unsanctioned bridge race, elite heat mile, and road mountain relay. I realized that in my immovable, miserable devotion to the marathon, I had completely forgotten the joy of running fearlessly and tenaciously. I had grown accustomed to racing deep within my anxiety instead of away from it. With this change in practice and mindset came both significant PR's and new experiences, from sprinting uphill in thunder and heavy rain to running down Fifth Avenue in buns at the head of the pack.


I share these reflections not to assume that they’re meaningful to anyone else besides me, but rather because I’m reminded that training is an unwritten journey – full of unexpected twists and turns, disappointments and uncertainties, triumphs and elation, but most importantly – discoveries. Looking back at my first e-mail to Coach Caleb, I described myself as a “25-year-old novice runner.” Though, thankfully, that tricky age is past, I’m grateful for this summer’s return of that curious, newcomer spark. I look forward to the next chapter, wherever it takes me.

Coach Caleb’s Note: This post comes from Jess Chen, who lives and trains in Brooklyn/NYC. After the Paris Marathon and Jess earning a BQ, she had some modest goals of running a solid 5k or two and maybe running a 6:00 mile. Jess has worked hard and broken 19 minutes in the 5k and recently set a new mile PR of 5:23 at the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile. I’ve been telling Jess that she has some natural talent for the faster stuff for years, and it was fun to see her prove me right this summer!