when it comes to running, i’ve got nothing and everything to say. i’m hesitant to talk about the issue because i know that runners speak a language most people don’t understand. runners also get so consumed in the sport that we are generally unable to shut up once we’re asked about this entire left-foot, right-foot perpetual motion machine business. but i’ll play nice here and try to say a few words without writing a novel.
i started running in earnest around 2001, I think. I took a nasty fall while rollerblading (it required a visit to an ER), so I decided it would be safer to rely on my own two feet to get around and to stay in shape. since then, I’ve run recreationally and i’ve run passionately and i’ve run “addictively” (if that’s a word). I’ve run for fun, for exercise, and for catharsis.
i’ve never run competitively, although I have trained for and ran in races and continue to do so. I don’t race against other people, and i generally don’t even race against myself. in fact, i don’t like the word “race.” i don’t run to beat a previous mark so much as i run to see what i can do. it’s an odd way to think about it, but i run because this is my body and i want to test it. i want to see what it can do and not necessarily how well it ran today compared to a week ago.
although i keep track of speed and distance with a simple nike+ running chip and sometimes use web service such as runnerplus and runner’s lounge, i try to avoid thinking about things like how fast i can go for how long. although i test my body to see what it can do, i know full well that my muscles don’t really understand distances or rates of speed the way my mind does. Whether I run 15km or 18km tomorrow isn’t *that* much of a difference to my legs (which are admittedly well-trained for the distance). In terms of time, the difference between 15km and 18km is an extra 17 minutes or so, which will wear on my mind as i’m finishing the last 3k of that run. but to my muscles, what matters will be “long run” vs “short run” vs “hills” vs “tempo” vs “intervals” etc etc.
this is why i judge my runs, ultimately, by the way i feel. i don’t care if i ran only 5:43min/km on wednesday instead of my typical 5:25-5:30min/km. What matters to me is that yesterday’s run was a sluggish run. It was late in the day, and it was hot and muggy, and the run didn’t feel great at all. i didn’t feel good on that run, and i know i want to feel better on the next.
thinking about running this way keeps it simple on the mind, even when i’m training for long distances. of course i want to shave some time off my 10k and my Half rates – who doesn’t? But shaving that time off is secondary to just feeling good. I’m getting older with every step i put in front of me, and i know that there will be a day when i won’t be able to run faster than the day i did before. but i want to make sure that when that day comes I won’t care one way or another about the issue. So I keep things simple by working toward just feeling good. If I can finish with a smile on my face, then i know i’ve done everything right that day.
[n.b. sooner or later i’ll write a post complaining about times and distances. forgive me when i do. it’s just easier to write about stats than it is to constantly be contemplative.]