During my first summer running with the team, I imagine I probably had a
conversation that went something like this:
Me: “What workout are we doing today?”
Wade: “Four-mile build-up.”
Me: “Oh…what’s that?”
The four-mile build-up was always one of my favorite workouts. For those that
are unfamiliar with the workout, it is structured like this: The workout is
typically run on Chestnut St., starting on the West side of Phoenix elementary
(my first one was when Belmont School was still there!) and running south to
32nd Ave before turning around and finishing back at the starting line. The
first mile mark is right around 17th Ave. During the workout, each mile is
supposed to be run faster than the last, hence the term “build-up.” In racing
this is often referred to as running negative splits.
One of the most interesting and fun parts of the workout is that each runner
starts at a different time. A “pecking order” is determined before the run
starts, with the slowest runners going first and the fastest starting last. I
have done the workout with as much as 30 seconds between runners or as little as
15 seconds. The early starters have the added motivation of trying not to let
the later starters catch them, while the faster runners are trying to catch as
many of their teammates as possible. Because it is an out-and-back run, you get
to see and cheer on teammates throughout the workout, and as you near the
turn-around point, you can gauge how far behind or ahead you are compared with
I always loved the challenge of balancing between staying disciplined by
running negative splits on the miles, while at the same time trying to do those
miles as fast as possible in order to pass the runners who started before me and
not be passed by those who started behind. In my first build-up workout, I
remember coming down the final few blocks, rain pouring down, with none other
than Coach Allan coming up behind me (yes, believe it or not he used to do a lot
of the workouts with us!) Cheered on by my teammates who had already finished, I
was able to hold him off by a few seconds (at least I assume that’s what
happened, it’s possible he “let” me finish in front of him, which, if true, was
a savvy coaching move). It was absolutely exhilarating. Later in my career I was
the one starting last, trying to catch everyone in front of me.
For those reading this that are doing the 4-mile build-up this week, I truly
envy the pain and exhaustion and exhilaration you will feel during the workout.
It was always one of my favorites. Heck, I can hardly run down Chestnut St.
anymore without the pace increasing because of it.