Some of the most interesting and motivating features of Strava are the monthly challenges. For runners, these generally include a challenge to run a certain race distance (10K, Half Marathon, or Marathon), run a particular total mileage (generally 200km for the month), and climb a particular height, all by the end of the month. The challenges allow you to compete against yourself as well as all other Strava users who sign up for the challenge. Hence, you can see how you stack up to other runners around the world who are training and racing the same sorts of distance as you.
This month I signed up for the full suite of challenges. Some, like the 10K, I knocked over regularly – indeed, almost every run I completed this month was a 10K. My speed, however, was not quite up there with the others completing the challenge because, as of this morning, my best 10K effort for the month had me ranked 13,408th out of 144,612 people with an average pace of 4:43/kilometer. This put me in the top 10% of challenge seekers.
For the Half Marathon I was ranked a little better at 2,714th out of a smaller ‘pack’ of challengers numbering 76,188. My 4:43/kilometer average pace for the qualifying run – the same run as for the 10K challenge, in fact – put me in the top 4% of challenge seekers.
For the monthly Distance challenge I fared better, still. My ramp up in distance ahead of the Thames Path 50 mile run and the lack of injuries meant I am sitting in 502nd place out of 141,211 challengers. This puts me pretty firmly in the top 1% of challenge seekers for the distance challenge this month, and 18th in France which is not too shabby, either.
However, the one challenge that is always a little harder for me to hit each month is the climbing challenge. While in some months a reasonably easy 1500 meters of total ascent in a month is enough to complete the challenge, in August the necessary ascent to complete the challenge was bumped to 3500 meters. Perhaps this was to account for the vacation time and mountain running that a lot of people do with a long weekend or week off in the summer, but it made things harder for people who don’t live near large hills or who are preparing for a flat trail run such as myself.
Yet when I looked at the progression I had made towards this challenge last night and as I thought about where the short run I had planned could take me, I decided to throw in a couple of hills and knock this one out of the park. After all, if I had completed all of the other challenges for the month, why not this one, too?
Needing something in the order of 100 meters of total ascent, I decided that hitting both the Fourviere and Croix Rousse hills would push me over the top. I started almost immediately uphill when, after crossing the footbridge from home, I started up the side of Fourviere heading towards Saint Just. Arriving there, I doubled back towards the basilica and made my way to the top of the climb where I snapped a photo of the sun rise – that’s my photo at the top of this post – and then made my way through the park and back down to Valmy.
At the bottom of the descent I crossed over the Soane and then started up the climb of the Esses until, reaching the top, I swung around the boulevard and started heading back into town. Though I was pretty sure I had the ascent I needed locked up, I threw in a final climb back to the top of the Grande Cote, then descended down to the Place des Terreaux and took a straight shot back to Jacobins.
Personally, I think this is perhaps the best way to ‘use’ a challenge in training. I knew I wanted to get the not-at-all-special Strava ‘badge’ for completing the challenge and so my morning 10K turned into a hilly 10K. I got a good workout, I kept a good and strong pace between the hills, and I finished with some nice speed in the final kilometer (4:24 pace for the final 600m).
As for the challenge, I am currently ranked 7,258th of the 73,253 challengers in the running, so to speak. That puts me just inside the top 10% of challenge seekers which, all things considered, I’m content with.
Now for September…