Guy Fawkes Nights Workouts - Uniquely British
I’ll never forget the few months I spent in north London, training with a local club Highgate Harriers. Every Tuesday evening, the club meets for intense interval sessions at the Parliament Hill track in Hampstead Heath. These were searing experiences: high intensity reps of distances ranging from 400 meters to a mile, coupled with short recovery.
One workout session in early November fell on Guy Fawkes Night. It’s a uniquely British phenomenon, and something of a novelty for a visiting American. I remember being utterly discombobulated as we sprinted around the track, fireworks shooting across the sky. In a haze of oxygen debt, I watched the sky explode.
The fireworks were random and sporadic. Booms and bursts went off at odd, un-rhythmic intervals. The entire city was erupting, a seething dance of light and sound. The noise bounced off the hillside above the track and blazes of light illuminated the London skyline in fits and seizures. It was the wildest, most disorienting, most amazing workout I have ever done.
Down on the track, the workout itself was a microcosm of the tumult in the skies above Britain. Approaching each interval with deep breathes, legs would explode off the line, a blur of flesh and sinew. By the penultimate interval, I was utterly shattered - a rolling calamity, panting down the track.
One can always rally for the final interval though. The finality of the “holy-cow-this-is-it” can provide that wee bit of super-heroism that we’ve all tapped into at the end of a session. I made it through to the final curve with my ears ringing. I gasped cross-eyed through the homestretch. And it was the only time in my entire life that I crossed a line to fireworks.
Running is always a simultaneously universal and idiosyncratic experience. Viewed objectively, track workouts the world over seem the same mundane experience of 400 meter left-turning laps. But that evening’s session on a particular London night was unique. It was colorful and loud and brash. It was humbling and exhausting. It was awful and awesome. It was quintessentially London.
Sam Robinson lives and runs in Oakland, California. Having spent his college days racing track and cross country Sam now focuses his efforts on marathons, ultras and trail races. Sam recently took outright victory in the Mad City 50km Road Race in Wisconsin in his bid to gain a USA national vest. He blogs at http://thegauntlife.blogspot.co.uk