The wind did its best to throw me off the bridge but I leaned into it. I must have been a sight, running with my body swinging like an upside-down pendulum from side to side depending on the wind's whims. I didn't care. The sun was starting to come up in all its glory. I call that great weather.
Once I arrived at the hockey arena, where AIK usually meets up on Saturdays, our coach informed us that those who felt like it could incorporate a faster 5km interval in the middle of the long run. This interval included the dreaded Erikslid slope. This slope lures you in; it starts off easy enough with a gentle incline, but just as your legs are starting to feel the difference between flat and hilly, it swerves steeply upwards. Only for a short bit, though.
I told my teammates that I would jog the interval, that no way I would run fast. Not during a long run at these post-injury times. Plus, I already had a long run in my legs. Last Wednesday I logged a wonderful 26 km, including hills, a run that made not only my day but my week. I could have run forever. So, nope! I would not run fast. No way.
Then we stood in a long line, all 12-odd of us, the slowest ones first and the fastest ones last. We started running one by one, 20 seconds between us, so that we would naturally gather up at the end of the interval. I wanted to position myself at the front of the line, but there were apparently others who didn't want to run fast either. So I started third.
I could feel the horns growing out of my head. The competitive devil took over me. I willed my legs to slow down. Tried to remind them I hadn't really done any speed work since last summer. But the devil was too strong. I caught up with the second runner on the beginning of the slope, then the first runner on the way down from the slope. The wind was on my back, lending a helping hand, but then it turned against me, trying to push me backwards with every step. I gasped for air. Thought to myself that now I could relax, when I had run past the first two. Then I saw our coach standing by the side of the path. He was very enthusiastic in his encouragement. It gave me new wings. Later, when two of the fastest runners had caught up with me from the end of the line, and when I had just started to struggle again, our coach was there again, telling me it looked good, that I was doing a good job. When he turned up again for the third and last time, I had found enough strength in me to smile in return.
I jogged back home after the long run, stopping by the river to take a look at the winter swimmers. My legs were tired but satisfied. I had passed 60 km this week, for the first time since last summer. Flow.