by Marlene Farrell 

Photo by Kevin Farrell.

It’s a Wednesday, we wake early, don running clothes and shoes, swallow sips of coffee, and make our way to the Leavenworth gazebo. In the spring and fall, each runner materializes out of the darkness. In the summer, we can see each person coming, from different directions, converging.

This is our Wednesday speed group, informally monikered and informally organized by the invisible strings of text messages about this week’s location and workout. Location because we mostly meet in downtown Leavenworth to run on park trails, but sometimes we meet in Peshastin for the honesty of the track.

Workout is a loose term. As the “owner” of the text group, I throw out a suggestion, such as 1km repeats, or a ladder from 400m up to 1200m and back down. Or a recent favorite, 2 x 1mi on the track with ample rest between. There’s wiggle room, in the gloaming or the slanted light (depending on the season) when we first arrive, exchanging hellos and shuffling or stretching in anticipation, for workout adjustment.

Before the workout, we enjoy a long warm up, which is probably prolonged for the younger attendees, but is appreciated by those of us whose muscles are significantly altered and readied by three or so miles of easy running. This is also the time we chat about our families, jobs, and adventures completed or embryonic. When we’re meeting in Peshastin, the warmup is on the beautifully hushed and wooded trail along the river.

The workouts are not aimed for a specific training regime or a goal race. They are meant to be fun and diverse. In Leavenworth’s Enchantment Park, we’ll run some loops clockwise and some reverse. The muffled thud of shoes on gravel is marvelous. Turning a corner toward the river lit in morning light is glorious. Striving to run good lines along the trail and up and down undulations is a focusing of oneself in the moment.

It’s key to do this with others. There’s a collective rising to the occasion; we feel it every time, both during and after the intervals. Our accomplishment is marked in our bodies—our lungs expanded, our limbs tart with a hint of acid burn.

The text group hovers around twenty, and membership has shifted over time. It’s open to anyone and everyone who can find joy in the concept of intervals. Honestly, most of our attendees prefer multi-hour runs, or bike and run equally. Our typical turnout is about five people, which I count as a success.

The weekly text message is meant to be a herald of opportunity. Because, who does speed work alone? There’s no pressure, just a little invitation that can be jotted down or ignored.

Speed group migrated from Fridays to Wednesdays, and that was a smart, if accidental, move. Amid the midweek hustle and bustle, the early morning commitment to work and pleasure (two sides of the same coin), marks time and revives one’s energy for the second half of the week.

Speed group began during the pandemic which takes a winter hiatus when roads are slippery and trails nonexistent so far as running is concerned. But otherwise, I don’t see why we’d ever stop. I love that we have teenagers drop in on occasion, and friends of friends dabble with it. Every time, we leave fortified by camaraderie and self-knowledge. I can sit, content, at my desk, in an intellectual mode because I’m already physically fulfilled. The Wednesday early mornings, which were the “good hard,” stay with me for long after.

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