Strava Track Club members are engaged in a wide variety of vocational and other pursuits in addition to their running. Find out more about our team in our periodic feature, Meet the Team. Kris Paaso is our very first team member, back when Peninsula Distance Club was formed so she could attend USATF Club Nationals in 2007. An NCAA volleyball champion while at Stanford, running has always been a central thread for Kris and her family, even when it hasn't been at the forefront. Now, one of the best 40+ milers ever, she still enjoys competing well in open and masters competitions alike. Follow her on Strava here!
After two miles of easy running to warm-up, I change my trainers into flats and start my drills on the Stanford track. Today's work-out is 400s, 200s, and 100s at interval pace. The goal is to breathe hard, otherwise known as working your VO2 Max.
I have been running at the Stanford track, on and off, for over 35 years. The first time was with Arrow Track Club. Practice was in the old Stanford Stadium. The favorite work-out of the coaches was stadiums. Must have been an easy choice to tire us out. Point the kids towards the stairs, watch them bound up the wood bleachers, and see who could make it above the tunnel where the stairs got even steeper. No stairs today. First 400 feels good. Next one, I groove the pace. About 71-72. That will work.
Why track? I always loved to run. On a family hike in Oregon when I was little, my dad carried me up the mountain on his back. Once to the top, my sister and I ran all the way to the bottom. I'm sure my dad had to chase us.
But he probably loved that though I can't ask him now. He died in 2011. My father, a Finnish farm boy from Astoria, Oregon, was a runner. I heard stories about Paavo Nurmi and the flying Finns growing up; how Peter Snell rubbed out my father's legs at a meet; how my father ran through the woods, jumping over logs and ferns; and how when he was a physician, he saw Emil Zatopek as a patient.
Zatopek used to run a lot of 400s. In one day, he did 100, done in two sets of 50 in two work-
outs. I'm on #6. 74ish. Lost the pace. Switching to 200s. 34-35. In the right zone.
Track, on and off. On through junior high and high school. Off in college except for a couple months my sophomore year when I ran the 400 hurdles for Brooks Johnson, but it was too hard to do two sports. Volleyball, the sport which supported my education at Stanford, won out. Off post college. Then on starting the fall of 2005.
During September 2005, there were a couple of weeks where people asked me if I ever did anything with my running. Even my track coach from high school appeared as a security guard in the parking structure that was next to where I worked. He asked about my running, and then disappeared shortly after when I decided to pursue it. The timing coincided with my father's diagnosis with cancer. God is good, isn't he?
200s done, now the 100s. These are around 16.50. I want to do six or at least go until the quality drops. I get to six easily, the splits tight to each other. Feeling good, I dare a seventh. Spot on.
It's been almost ten years since this chapter of running started, and I’ve had scores of wonderful teammates and beautiful memories. I’ve run at Hayward Field where the fans clapped rhythmically every time we ran the straights. I met Joan Benoit Samuelson in Boston before the Tufts 10k. And I’ve been fortunate to race on my home track at Stanford several times, during which one of the races, I broke the 1500m American Record for the 40-44 age-group two weeks after my dad passed. God is really good.
I ponder another 100. I want to but I shouldn't, plus my parking meter is about to run out of time.
I walk away from the Stanford track.
But I'll be back.