34 minute read

Long story short, I achieved a personal goal to run under a five-minute mile on the treadmill, twice in a day – and nearly destroyed my legs in the process.

On January 22nd of this year — 2024 — which falls on a Monday, my gym that I go to (Orangetheory Fitness) was pushing a special challenge, which coincided with a seasonal fitness event they apparently have going on. This benchmark challenge was the One Mile Run — on the Treadmill. I attempted and completed it twice on that day, a Monday, and achieved my personal goal of sub-five-minute on the 1 Mile benchmark run. My thoughts and experiences follow.

Transformation Goals

I wish I could spare more details on the seasonal fitness challenge-slash-event I alluded to above, but I’m somewhat of a newcomer myself. I joined only March of last year — 2023 — so I’m still a youngling compared to most other hardcore, devout members; not even a whole year under my belt, yet. So, I really can’t say much about this challenge, other than it’s a supposed gimmick to get you more fit. I say “supposed” because I’m wary of anything that costs money and promises to get you in better shape. I guess you can call me a fitness skeptic — I don’t know if that’s a phrase they use.

At any rate, this so-called “transformation” challenge can be viewed as a guiding stick — or a handy tool of sorts — useful in one’s fitness journey if nothing else. Does one have to shell out an extra $50 or thereabouts to sign up for the challenge? You betcha, buddy. No way to work around that neither. And is there any immediate benefits of completing the challenge, such as a free t-shirt, or a nice, warm chocolate chip cookie and a lukewarm glass of 2% fat milk? A big way “no way, Jose!” on both counts. So you gain absolutely nothing, just a big handful of imaginary magic dust that you can scoop up, and blow away with the breath and scatter to the wind (at least in your dreams you can).

Jokes on you then, right? For signing up for a challenge that asks you to give up something, and yet apparently doesn’t give back — or gain you — anything. Seems pretty cut and dry, eh? Potentially, yeah, except well… for one thing. I suppose such a “transformation” journey / challenge is meant to teach you something, deep down on a fundamental, spiritual, or psychological level. Or whatever. Maybe it’s the same lesson that Buddha eventually chanced upon.

All Life is Suffering. Suffering is caused by an attraction to Desire.

OK, so maybe not that deep. Maybe not that… spiritual. Maybe dial it down a tone, yeah?

OK, so let’s take three steps back. Perhaps I really meant to bring attention to Buddha’s stance and his admonishment on our fixation on material possessions, and in urging us to let go of it. There are a lot more than material possessions that Buddha was against, but let’s tackle one at a time.

So in that sense, is $50 really a lot to give up for? Think about it, the symbol $ itself almost screams materialistic goods. Why do we, as a society, have such a fascination with money and riches, anyway? If you saw a beggar on the streets, or an orphaned child with a physical impairment or disability of some kind, and your heart was moved enough, would you not willingly transfer a meaningless $50 — or even $5,000 — from your hand to theirs? Or donate that amount to a beneficial cause, one worth fighting for? In that scope, and given that meaning, is $50 a lot to ask to give up, when there is no real benefit other than personal fitness improvement?

Of course not. If you walk the path of the Buddha, even for a tenth of a mile, and understand that all material possessions are largely useless, given that they are tied to your pointless, insignificant life on this Earth — then of course $50 is meaningless, in the grand scheme of things. I would gladly give up that sum of cash, if the benefit itself was even remotely apparent, albeit intangible.

However, let’s pivot now to look at it through another lens. Given that we’ve already established that the cost does not outweigh the gains. Let’s evaluate the specific gains once again. Is such a “body transformation” challenge really worth it? What the heck does it even entail? Well, if I understand correctly, the purpose of this personal fitness goal/event is to push or challenge one to improve one’s fitness, by achieving either one of 1) losing body fat or 2) gaining muscle. Seems pretty simple, right? For transparency, I went with option #1 as it seemed to align with my own personal goals.

Not to wax eloquent about it anymore, so suffice it to say I’m skeptical of such a “challenge” going into it. Seems more of a marketing stunt, a gimmick. That might be others’ thoughts too. So this might be the time to bust out that other lens, and gaze through it and illuminate the true benefits of the “challenge”. A few others on social media platforms have echoed my sentiments too, but I likewise agree, in that I feel that paying for the challenge is a way to hold oneself accountable. It’s almost like a contract. Almost. In the sense that you give up a part of yourself, something that you possess, and in return you promise to yourself to deliver on that thing which is clearly stipulated on the contract you sign. So in this case, I promise to lose body fat. I sign that contract. I give up that money. And the rights to my home, and my car. And all the clothes on my back. Actually, let’s simplify that and go with just the former point. So I throw up the dolla bills into the air. I brandish a (borrowed) pen and I sign that contract, that clearly states what I’m signing up for, that my goal is to lose some fat, and that yessir, I know what I’m doing, absolutely. So I’ve given up my money. Something I owned, that belonged to me. Now I have to deliver on that promise. I am held accountable to it. Sword to my neck, I have to “Just do it!” as Nike heartily encourages, or suffer eternal shame for having cast $50 of my hard-earned cash down the drain; or flushed it down the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink. Take your pick. It’s like having the words “Loser” engraved in permanent marker on your forehead for everyone to see, if you fail to deliver on that promise. Eternal Shame awaits you. So you flushed your money down the toilet again? Tsk, tsk. When will you learn? In that sense, I view it as a purely psychological exercise. Let’s say you give up your left arm, and if you manage to gain fat rather than lose it, you can’t have your left arm back. Motivation? Surely enough to go around. Probably more palatable, more real at that point. Not gonna lie. This challenge is that, but on a smaller-scale, and coming from a 100% more legal and ethical standpoint. It doesn’t force you to give up an arm and a leg, or even your firstborn child. Just material cash, which is (mostly) meaningless anyway. The part of it that is meaningful, or that one attaches significance to, is the part that is meant to drive and motivate one to deliver on and fulfill that promise. A promise to the self. As in, you’re not getting that money back, buddy, but you might as well try to ensure it’s “money best spent”. One can achieve that by succeeding rather than failing miserably, and hence risk being labeled as a pariah by society (and by one’s own mind of course).

So anyway, enough about that seasonal fitness event. I don’t really know anything about it. Don’t trust me. I might well fail miserably on it too. It’s too early to tell, and it’s my first time signing up for this event. Torpedo launched at my chest, I have no idea what I’m doing. That’s perfectly OK! The goal of it is not to compete against others. It’s a purely psychological experiment. I would probably seek to cut down on body fat and on unhealthy food either way. I can just view this as an experiment for working towards the same goals, more or less, in a slightly roundabout and more constricted fashion. Less room to move about in the playing field, with a barbed-wire fence completely enclosing the perimeter to boot. It’s all good! Let’s. Just. Do it. Nike had the right idea there, no doubt!

Preparation for 1 Mile Treadmill Run

Full disclaimer, I used to be on the track team in high school, but I kinda sucked at running, and I wasn’t running crazy competitively even then, and I was more of a mid- to long- distance running kind of guy. I don’t even remember competing on anything distance-related, period. I think I ran the one mile in a wide open running track loop outdoors, at least more than once. I don’t remember my best time. I think it was 6:30 or something. Maybe 7:30 if I’m being cautious. At that young age, it’s easy to think that’s hot stuff. I clearly thought I was hot stuff. To be fair, I wasn’t competing against anyone but myself. That was the way of the world back then. Not that long ago, probably around 2008. Anyway, I wasn’t a very good runner. By that, I wasn’t a competitive or exceptional runner in any sense. I guess I was OK.

So how does one gear up for their first one mile run ever, on the treadmill? Also, it’s been a hella long time since I’ve run a mile before. For me, it’s probably been a good 15 years. Almost two whole decades. So how the heck do I prepare? I used to be a little overweight, but I’ve lost a measly five pounds, and now I’m at a little over 145 pounds — what the heck? Am I even ready? Am I gonna crash and burn like last week’s hot sauce, or what?

I don’t know, I guess my journey to prepare for this one mile treadmill run — and for clarity, I knew about this benchmark run like a little over a month in advance — was a shaky and disorganized one. In the sense that, I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing, or how to best prepare. Some days I would take rest days to give my legs time to rest, and that just depended on whether my legs screamed at me and refused to walk much less run, without accompanying that with a dull ache or pain of some sort.

I have the history of classes I’ve taken since a month or two prior to the benchmark run day. If I wanted to, I could pull it up. I kind of know the broad strokes of it in my mind anyway. During Christmas break, I joined my fam on a road trip, and we stopped by Tennessee and then to Texas. Whilst in Texas we hit the big three, I guess you could call it. San Antonio. Austin. Houston. I went to the local gym studios in all those cities and locations. Incline workouts were challenging but necessary, to build leg strength. I completed the Everest challenge while I was in Texas too, so that helped gear me up. Likewise, I reached my max speed for a heart-pounding forty-five seconds at one of the gyms there, if memory serves correct. I think it was around 14.7 MPH, give or take. Then I went for an endurance run at one of the gyms there in Texas. Maintained my base and push intensity pace — both in double digits MPH — for two stretches of 15 minutes each. I thought that was pretty great. It took a lot out of me, but that taught me, or rather imparted to me a slice, of what endurance is. What it means to have endurance. It’s like you have to scream at your mind to shut up, constantly. It goes completely against human nature, and in most other walks of life, that’s a definite no-no. But in mid- to long- distance running, I feel you have to do that. Shut off your mind. Tell it to shut up. Shout it down if you have to. Hand over the reins to your heart, and to your lungs, and your legs. And. Just. Run. Because it’s exhausting, your mind and body will be screaming at you to stop, your lungs will tell you that you’re about to expire and come this close to dying from lack of oxygen, but that’s what you gotta do and it’s the only thing you need to do — gotta flip that switch off in your mind, and just run, like the devil is chasing you. Heck, maybe you are the devil. Not that it matters.

But this is what you need to do to succeed in a grueling, intensive endurance run, that takes a lot from you, and asks from you a lot to give. You just gotta shut off that part of your brain that commands you to please, for the love of puppies and kittens and Hershey’s kisses, just stop. Just take a breather for a mere second. Ease off, Jack. Sometimes it’s so very hard, to summon and maintain the necessary focus and willpower in order to ensure the ”follow through”. I’ve been victim of this many a time myself, where the focus and drive just dissipates and leaves me, like a well that immediately dries up. Lot of times I cannot maintain a simple base running pace. It’s not really endurance that’s to blame, but rather willpower itself. In running — at least for me — willpower is everything. All is predicated on you shutting off your mind, and ignoring everything your body tells you. This goes against common sense and human nature for most of us. It’s almost a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

There’s a quote from one of my favorite novels and series of all time, and it goes like this:

Duty is heavier than a mountain, death is lighter than a feather.

So when given a choice, opt for the harder one. The easier one is almost always the deceptive one, the wrong answer. The human body and mind is hardwired to seek respite in feelings and situations of extreme discomfort, and in particular high intensity, cardio workouts. The easiest thing to do is for the body to stop motion, so that the lungs can recover, and the heart can slow down so it doesn’t need to pump so much blood to the rest of the body. And so on. As a result, your mind screams at you, because it’s attuned to your body’s needs. That’s unfortunate, but it’s totally understandable. It’s just doing its job, in keeping you hale and hearty. And preferably not dead. So if you’re ever looking for a shoulder to lean on, lean on your mind, and by extension your body. Often times it’s also so hard to ignore the allure of the siren at the sea. By that I mean of course, the whisper in your ear, telling you to slow the hell down. Just take a breather, Jack, let your lungs gasp in one huge breath. Breathing is good, right? It’s actually a necessity for humans and most life here on Earth. So many times I’ve given into that haunting whisper that beseeches for a moment of rest and respite. The worst part of it is that it comes unbidden, and sometimes it goes against the grain, goes against what the workout calls for. If it’s an endurance run then it’s a given you’re never supposed to walk, so why does the body demand you to walk it out? It can be downright frustrating and result in a hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing reaction at times. Simply put, it’s like I’m at a constant war with my own mind and body in these running workouts, on the treadmill or even outdoors. Especially the lengthier endurance runs. It’s so easy to give in to the voice in your head telling you to slow down. But the answer is to shout it down. Drown it out. At least for a few extra seconds each time around.

Anyway. At around the first of the new year — 2024 — I was already back in Virginia. I started trying my hand at fasting, in particular intermittent fasting. It was not fun mixing that with workouts, especially the fast-paced ones at Orangetheory. It gave my legs a beating, especially as I tend to run at higher intensities. For reference, I stopped eating at around 8pm, and I would fast until noon the next day. So about 16 hours of fasting. The hardest part of this would be that I almost always had classes within my fasting window, which was unavoidable for most days in the week. So a 7am class, or a 10am one. Usually I would not be able to get any protein in until a good 4-5 hours later. The early morning classes would be more lenient, as I would have sufficient energy most of the time. But sometimes, lack of energy from the fasting would slowly defeat me, and I wouldn’t be able to run as fast or hard as I normally could. Not to mention, that likely because I wasn’t able to get a steady flow of protein and nutrients before and within a 3-hour window of my workout, my legs and muscles constantly ached and had what felt like a longer recovery rate. Long story short, 16-hour fasting and rigorous exercise (HIIT cardio and even strength training to an extent) do not mix well together; note to self to never attempt that ever again.

Still, while I slowly eased myself off an insane and unsustainable fasting schedule into a more manageable 12-hour fasting window, I started also watching my diet and intaking more nutrition along with just protein shakes and greek yogurt. Added some eggs and avocado in to the mix. Meanwhile, in the HIIT workout sessions I attended, once thing I noticed and picked up on, was the workout templates that were being offered were more and more geared towards preparation for the one mile benchmark challenge. Which was peculiar, although not unexpected, and honestly rather welcome. I feel that the coaches handled and communicated this workout template rather well.

As an example, one of the earliest “prep” opportunities for the mile run I remember was a 2 minute and 15 second tread for distance. What the heck is that, one might ask? Well bud, exactly what it says on the tin. You pick your running pace — and in a sense your poison — and you match and sustain that pace, for a little over 2 minutes. Seems easy, no? Actually, not really. Easier said than done, as it is with most things in life. I attempted this with my “goal mile pace”. For me that was an exact 5:00 (5 minute) mile pace. Which translates to a 12 MPH with 1% incline on the tread. A little over my push pace, so called because you “push” yourself to match that intensity (at least I think so?). One might think that maintaining a 12 miles-per-hour pace for 2 minutes is easy-peasy. A no-brainer. In fact, if one is mildly out of shape (like me), or even depending on diet and nutrition alone, or even if the body is not attuned well to a medium-distance endurance run, such an ask — run at 5:00 mile pace for 2:15 — is most assuredly unreasonable. I don’t have the results of that workout pulled up, but I think I succeeded at that self-set goal. Pick your poison, I chose 12 MPH. Ran it for one minute, nearly out of breath. Ran it for two minutes, felt my body was screaming inside and waiting for me to flop over like a dying fish, or collapse in on my legs and fall down. Finally I reached 2:15 and forgot there was a thirty-second finisher at the end, and ultimately defeated by my body, had to give in and walk it out at around the 2:30 point. So truly not bad, and in my eyes only barely acceptable. So this initial workout taught me that I can sustain a half-mile at my target mile pace. That’s not worth much, but it’s worth something. Progress, at the least. Slowly I can build on that. The goalpost was at 2:30 before. Move the historic marker to there, and move the goalpost up another thirty seconds. Rinse and repeat, ad infinitum. Or at least ad diem challenge, I suppose.

So anyway, at the risk of not wanting to toot my own horn, that more or less was how I challenged myself to slowly build up my leg power and physical endurance. One micro-benchmark at a time. First it was my target mile pace for 2:30. Two days later I moved the goalpost to 3:00, then to 3:30, and then to the 4:00 mark. Ultimately, the workout templates were changing day-to-day, and as time wound ever closer to the day of the benchmark run, the templates themselves started to take on a mind and cruelty of their own, and become increasingly more merciless. Tread for distance for 3 minutes 30 seconds. Run at a push pace for 4:30. The last I was at half a mind to attempt at my target mile pace. But it was late already into that workout session, and I don’t think I had the drive, or energy, or motivation to follow through on that. So I went at a much easier, much more casual and manageable pace for that. Did I regret it? Maybe.

Perhaps that’s what prompted me to sign up for a new “Treadmill only” workout on the weekend. It was a freeform exercise, minimal workout template to work with, basically no coach yelling at you and telling you to speed up or to not walk it out, just you being your own master and commander (and trainer). You set the workout template of the day, you decide what your goal is that day. So, I kind of lied. There was a workout template of course, they don’t let you freeform it completely. Which is kind of a bummer, but also kind of not. It’s like taking a quiz but not being graded on it at all. It’s just meant to improve your knowledge. So was this workout, designed to help improve my strength and endurance. The workout template was very loose, and halfway through I decided to toss it out the window altogether, and do my own thing. By that I mean, run for three minutes at a 5:00 mile pace, stop when body screams at you to stop, let the lungs gulp in huge gulps of air, let the sweat slowly drench your forehead and soak your shirt. Walk it out. Then from strength block I went into an endurance block, just because I was bored of that. Challenged myself to run at a base pace for a good 10 minutes. I didn’t make it, of course, and stopped a little before. Out of breath again. After walking it out again, took a much longer break. Then, without planning to, I just set my target mile speed on the tread, and off I went. This last block was totally unplanned, same as the previous ones. I did not know going into that day that I would do a power-endurance-power block on repeat. This was a total surprise for me. When I set the pace I wanted to run at, the good ol’ trusty 12 MPH, I didn’t really have a clue how long I wanted to run at that speed for. Maybe, just beat my 3 minute mark I’d set earlier in that same workout. That was really my only goal. But I pushed past 3:30, body felt tired but I noticed my lungs were more capable this time around, so I decided to keep going to see far I could get. At around 4:00, the same familiar sensation came over me, of the lungs and body screaming at me, and beseeching me to give it up. Squashed the feeling ruthlessly, and it got a little more manageable. At around 4:30, I remember stopping, but also feeling that I could maybe have made it to 5:00, if I wanted to, that is if I wanted to stretch it out another thirty seconds. What is another thirty seconds, after all? I think it’s at that point I knew I was as prepared as I was going to get.

Which is good, because it looks like that “Treadmill-only” workout basically took my legs out of commission, for a good day or more. Still it was a week until the 1 mile run was supposed to take place, but looking at my attendance history, I skipped the next day and only went for a strength class, since my legs were basically beat and could not run on them that day. The day after that I went to a regular workout, but apparently my legs still weren’t feeling it, so I substituted the bike for the treadmill. So essentially, it was three whole days that my legs were out of commission for after that intense workout (whole fault was mine) where I couldn’t run in them at all. Serves me right, I suppose. But at least, the self-taught lesson in endurance stayed with me the whole time.

Not much to say, other than I continued going to regular exercises on treadmill everyday after that. Never went at my target mile pace for over 3:30 again. Part of the reason was that I knew it would surely destroy my legs again if I sustained it at past 4-minute mark. So I didn’t even try it. Only knew in the back of my mind that it was possible. Possible because I had just done it once, just recently.

Anyway, that Friday — January 19th — was a strange, unexpected day. I’d signed up for a weigh-in at the gym that day so I could see how much I weighed and I could get my muscle mass measured. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the weather had other plans. Yes indeed, it snowed that exact morning, something like 4 inches at least. Covered all the streets in my neighborhood, and my car was buried in at least a half-foot of snow. I didn’t even go out to check, stayed indoors that whole day. The snowplow truck came at around noon, rather late, to clear out the local roads in our community. I didn’t step foot outside, much less operate my car, that whole day. Lethargy was the name of the game that day.

Saturday I was busy and I couldn’t go to exercise, so Sunday I went to class with a passion to make up for that. Normally I would leave a rest day before something intense like a one-mile run, especially at such a fast pace on the treadmill. But I had not had opportunity to go workout for two whole days, so I felt I was about due. I went to an hour-and-half class. Eventually pushed myself to run 5:00 mile pace for a little over 4:00. Then took rest, and did a run for 3:00 minutes at that same speed, then a short break, then 2:00 again. All together, the second half was 5:00 in total, with only a short break in between. Technically, we were only supposed to run at a “push” pace and not at an “all out, burn yourself out” intensity, which is usually what 12 MPH is for most folks at any rate. But it was the day before the one-mile benchmark tread run, and I wanted to ensure that my body was prepared for it. Getting back up to speed was the hard part, and in my experience “historic” endurance is crap as you constantly need to go back and revisit it, to teach your body it again so that it sticks for a short time again. Because your body conveniently “forgets” remembered endurance if you leave even a few days gap from whence it learned it. So it’s necessary at least for me to go back and teach the body and mind to revisit that same pace and intensity. Besides, nowhere is it more useful than the day before “race day”, as they oft say.

The Run

Now as to the results or outcome. I’ll attempt to keep this brief as I’m wasting too much time already with this blog post. The goal is not to write a novel but to convey the outline correctly.

A couple days before “race day” — January 22nd, which fell on a Monday — I’d pre-booked the classes I for sure wanted to attend. This is because I didn’t want to deal with waitlists and potentially worry about whether I was booked for that class, because I had a feeling workout sessions on that day would be booked due to everyone scrambling to try their hand at the (leg-crushing) challenge. So I had hastily pre-booked classes that day. An early morning class — around 7AM — at Fairfax, and an evening class at Reston. All said, there was at least a good ten hours rest in between.

Gearing up for this, I loaded my body up with nutrition and followed a strict diet that whole week. More so the day before. I loaded up with eggs, avocado, whole grain, PB and nut butter, poultry, sweet potato, spinach, beans, broccoli, and fruits such as dates, apples, pomegranate, pineapple, blueberries, watermelon, golden berries, and blackberries. Then just staple protein bars, protein shakes, and low-fat greek yogurt. Basically anything I could get my hands on, which had protein and fat, but close to no added sugar. The last part was key. Also portion control, and ensuring I did not eat more than 3 dates in a day, for example.

I’m honestly not sure if that helped, but my legs felt less sore that next day, so I feel it must have done something at least. Thirty minutes before class at 7AM, I popped two dates in my mouth for a quick, carb-rich energy boost. First meal of the day. Then I went to class in my bright-orange Hoka shoes that I’d spent way too much money on, and in sleeveless and shorts. Sleeveless is necessary to reduce a bit of body weight, IMO. It helps a minuscule amount, but I feel it’s more of a psychological thing — same as with shorts that weigh almost nothing. It elevates your mood and helps you get into that mindset and zone that you need to be in. Anyway, signed up first for the treadmill, was a bit nervous going in, but after a brief warmup on the tread, set my target 5:00 mile pace and just ran. At thirty seconds before at around 4:30, I felt I had ammo left in the barrel, so I hitched a ride on second wind and pumped it up to 13.5 MPH. I finished with a 4:57 mile time, so slightly less than my target of 5:00 minute mile, which was awesome.

Felt good about that. Came back, immediately ate a bowl of blueberries, some hand-cut slices of watermelon, a packaged cup of pomegranate from Costco, a Rise protein bar with cinnamon and honey, drank some tea, showered, changed, ate a light brunch at around noon that consisted of an egg, avocado mash, whole grain oatmeal, greek yogurt, and whole wheat bread with nut butter — if memory serves correct. Supplemented with more blueberries and watermelon because my legs were still a bit sore. Went back to work, then again at half an hour before the next gym class, I ate one date. I could have eaten two dates again, but I wanted to limit myself to a maximum of three dates per day for weight control.

Anyway, headed to class at the studio in Reston, and honestly going in to it did not know what my running pace would be this time. I only know that I would better it to test my body and push myself to the limits of what I knew was possible. I started with floor exercises which involved mobility and lifting weights, so I went easy on weight selection. Very soon it was my turn to shine, on the tread. I did a full-motion leg warmup before, though in hindsight I’m not sure if that helped, or that anything could have helped. Running a mile at faster than 5:00 mile pace, that too twice in a day, is bound to take its toll on the body.

In any case, there wasn’t really any gradual “slow-run, gradually up to base pace, then walk it out” warmup this time around, as it was in the morning. We just dived right in. Probably for a short while, like a minute or so before that, I knew what pace I would set and try to maintain. In this case, it turned out to be a 4:45 mile pace I think. On the treadmill that translates roughly to 12.5 MPH @ 1% on incline. So I say the goal was to maintain that, but my body was beat and could not sustain it for long. At around the 3 minute mark, my body was already screaming at me telling it cannot maintain that incredibly exhaustive pace any longer. So I dialed it back to 12.3 MPH. One might say that .2 MPH is hardly a huge difference. The point here was that was more of a psychological move. It might be strange, but indeed somehow it worked. I managed to sustain 12.3 for a whole another minute. At a little past the 4 minute mark I started dying inside, but as the saying goes —

When your body screams at you to stop, that’s exactly the point where you should speed up.

Actually, that’s a nearly-nonsensical quote, which can be attributed to me. I like to think up clever things like that attempt to turn them into action, in order to actually prove the (admittedly nonsensical) saying right.

So at around 4:00 mark, forty-five seconds before when I was expecting to finish, my legs and body and lungs and heart were all unanimously throwing their hands up and screaming at me to stop, because they cannot sustain a second more of it. But based on what I proposed above, the exact point when you should speed up for an “empty the tank” effort, is when your body is about to mutiny or else crash and burn, giving you the middle finger essentially because it cannot put up with your insane demands for a heartbeat longer. This then, is exactly what I did. I dialed it up all the way to 12.9 MPH, just shy of 13 MPH. No reason why I stopped there I suppose, other than I truly don’t think I could have managed even a .1 increase above it.

Anyway, I don’t think I could have sustained even that last burst of speed for the home stretch for a whole 45 seconds, but this dude on the treadmill next to me started cheering me on loudly. If not for that, I don’t think I would have kept going. Sometimes willpower alone is not enough, sometimes the necessary thing is strong words and encouragement from others, even one other. Just as it was in this case. Heart pounding like a wild animal against my chest, breath coming in great gulps of air sucked into my mouth as if through a straw, legs sore and screaming and about to give out, but somehow I made it. Hit the stop button at exactly 1.00 miles reached. Read the one-mile time at 4:47. Honestly was surprised, but also a little disappointed at the same time. I was trying to get better than 4:40 at the least, but I didn’t realize how hard it is to even shave a few seconds off something like a mile time. Also didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s a whole ten seconds faster than my previous record, set earlier by me that selfsame day.

Finally, here’s the long-awaited photo of me, with the 1 Mile leaderboard – not the ultimate version, as it only had participants up until my gym session.

Me with 1 Mile Board

For those curious, I added a similar post on my Instagram as well.


What an experience! Exhausted beyond words, but the words of encouragement and general appreciation from others, felt good to bask in the glow of pride and happiness. Knowing that I wanted to get better than 5:00 minute mile, for no other reason than to prove to myself that I could do it. Honestly I was just competing against myself. The early morning “me” handily beat my goal and ended up with a 4:57. The evening “me” beat even the early morning “me”, and while I did not get my desired time I was shooting for, I got close at 4:47 which is really respectable in itself. In the words of the jovial, burly dude on the treadmill next to me:

Running a mile in 5 minutes is just brutal by itself, bro.

Indeed. Indeed it is. I would never, ever dream of disagreeing with such an eloquently worded statement. Even a five-minute mile is a huge benchmark of sorts, and an amazing achievement in and of itself. I am certainly proud to have beat a personal record of a five-minute mile, and that too for the first time in my life.

Yes, I certainly don’t think I could have envisaged at the young age of 16 or so, that I would ever be able to achieve a 5:00 mile. Much less, a sub- 5:00 mile. But I am glad to know that not only was it possible, but that I achieved my personal goal for the indoor mile run on the tread, and that now I have a new personal record to beat.

To be frank, there are immediately apparent downsides [to doing what I did]. The foremost of which is, it hurts your legs. It hurts them a lot. For me, running an indoor mile twice on the treadmill on the same day, later basically translated into a wrecking ball that came to decimate my legs — particularly my knees and calf muscles. The whole next day, I could barely walk. Indeed I had to walk with a minor limp, because the knee and calf muscles in my left leg were too weak to even bear my weight. The day after that — which is admittedly today — I am somewhat more recovered, but still am not fully there. So all said, I had to give two whole days of rest for my body and for my legs and muscles. Two whole days where I could not do any workouts, regardless of HIIT or strength training. However, hopefully tomorrow I will be feeling good enough to go back to hit the gym — and the treadmill (though planning to take it easy there for a few days at the least). Update: even Thursday was a no-go. The opportunity presented itself, but I chickened out and went for strength training instead; in my defense, it was late in the day. So looks like three whole days of rest. Friday morning will be a green light and a re-exploratory foray into the tread for me.

All said, was it worth it? Honestly, it was because like I said it was a personal goal, and in large part I was only really competing against myself. In a smaller part, I would not be entirely truthful if I did not say that it was fun to compete with other members at Orangetheory Fitness as well.

There were other similar times, some great runners out there. I enjoy checking out the leaderboards at various studios. One dude (in a land far away) got a 4:28 mile. Holy cow! Imagine how wrecked his legs must be now. Hope it’s not too bad though. I saw another dude at my gym studio get a sub-5 minute mile. I am still at #1 position on the one mile leaderboard, at least in my gym and local area. So certainly, that helps too. My legs might be beat for a day or more, but I certainly 100% think it was worth it, just to set a new personal best, and to prove to myself and to my body and mind that it’s possible to get a sub- 5 minute mile – also on a smaller level, to prove this to others and to community as a whole as well. I certainly agree and feel that it’s worth it for that alone.