Conor Pope: At 19km/h, I have never felt less like an athlete

The class is called ‘tread and shred’, although ‘tread and dread’ might be a better name

Conor Pope in the gym. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Conor Pope in the gym. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

 

The scariest moment comes when I realise that if I stop moving my legs – even for an instant – I will be catapulted mortifyingly across the dimly lit room and into the mirrored wall on the far side.

I start to wonder then if I’ve made a terrible mistake.

In recent weeks I’ve been flirting with a new gym not far from where I work. I still go to my old one – and still think it is excellent – but this new one is, well, different. It also has a class I hoped would help me gather momentum in my running man endeavours.

The class is called “tread and shred”, although “tread and dread” might be a better name as it is not for the faint of heart. It marries running really fast and competitively on a treadmill with lifting weird-looking weights and, while it is bloody hard, it appeals to my finely tuned faddiness.

Of course, by rights I should have been running outdoors, but the country was awash with colourful storm warnings so – not wanting to be killed by low-flying bush – I thought I’d give the city’s parks a skip and go indoors for a spell.

I figured such a course would have the twin benefits of keeping me alive while allowing me to work on my speed. Having breached the 10km mark last week, my aim now is to run it faster than my first time of just over 64 minutes.

When I started this short – and soon-to-be-over – column, I’d a notion that I’d run my 10km in less than 50 minutes, but now I know that was just stupid talk. I will now be happy enough if I can go the distance in under an hour.

I hoped the new class would help.

The way it works is simple enough. Everyone runs together at the same speed, which varies depending on the whims of the instructor, who orders us to go faster or slower over the course of several minutes.

The treadmills are fitted with big screens, so it is easy for your running neighbours and the instructor to see what speed you are running at, which means there is nowhere to hide.

I nearly end up flying across the room. We start at a leisurely 8km/h and are prompted to increase the pace by a kilometre every 30 seconds until we can run no faster, after which we go back down to 8km/h and start again. It is kind of fun and I make it to 16km/h before having to go back to the start.

A heavy weight

Then we lift some weights before returning to the dreadmills. We are running at a fair old clip when I think I hear the instructor to tell us all to run at 19km/m for the next 30 seconds.

“What? No way. She must have said 9km,” I think to myself. Then I look to my left and my right. Everyone else in the class has set their treadmills to 19km/h and they are all running like the clappers.

Not wanting to be left behind, I push the buttons.

I run at this ridiculous speed for 25 seconds. We have a little break and then do it again. This time I start on time and run at 19km for the full 30 seconds. Another break and we do again, at which point I can almost hear my legs whispering “F**k this for a game of cowboys. We’re just going to stop and watch the machine hurl you across the room. That’ll learn you.”

I heed their whispers and slow down to 14km/h – a speed, incidentally, I would have thought incredibly fast before the class started.

I huff and puff my way through the rest of the class, drenched in sweat, and as I shower it dawns on me that while I struggled to run at 19km/h pace for 30 seconds, elite long distance runners run at more than 20km/h for more than two hours at a stretch. I have honestly never felt less like an athlete.

Conor Pope's 10km challenge
Part 1: That'll be no bother to me
Part 2: I’m hobbling like an auld fella
Part 3: Better off going to the pub
Part 4: My fitness app sounds disappointed
Part 5: My first parkrun was mortifying
Part 6: Running is boring
Part 7: Tell me why... I don’t like rundays
Part 8: You run like a rhino
Part 9: I've never felt less like an athlete
Part 10: I was wrong to think running was easy 

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!

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