A couple of weeks ago, I decided on a whim to run a half marathon. I had not been training regularly, and had not run over 10 miles since last May. I signed up a couple of days before the race. The day before the race, I started getting a sore throat, but decided to go ahead and run it anyway.
Not a good idea. I ended up finishing in 1:51, which put me right at an 8:30 pace. I felt great for about 9 miles, and was averaging under 7:45/mile, but then the wheels came off, and I just had to slow down and occasionally walk. Immediately after I finished, I had a sneezing fit. Over the course of the day, I started feeling worse, and eventually ended up with the flu. My temperature the next day was between 103 and 104 degrees. I felt miserable for about 3 days, and am still dealing with the last remnants of congestion.
I’m still glad I did it, and have been back to running for about a week now. I had a good 6 mile run today, and am keeping it slow in an effort to build a good base for possible races in the future. It feels great to go out without the GPS or metronome or any other devices, and just shuffle along with a quick but comfortable cadence, not feeling the need to hurry at all. My plan is to keep running like this and cultivate a feeling of ease and little effort. The speed will naturally return with this approach.
I often see articles and quotes and things about running that make it seem like it’s this amazing, transformative activity that will completely change your life. Some people say that if you finish a marathon, you’ll never be the same. Like it will somehow transform you into a better and more capable person.
Well, it won’t. I suppose it might do that for some people. But I like that for me, running is just something I’ve become pretty proficient at and enjoy. It certainly hasn’t made any problems go away. I haven’t come to any great realizations during any of my runs. When I can’t run for a while, I don’t feel like I’m missing some integral part of my existence.
I think part of the reason for this is how much attention I have paid to my form. Runs and races never feel like some monumental struggle. Even after my first marathon, I didn’t feel like I had achieved a great triumph of willpower. I just moved my body for 4 hours in a way that I had found to be the most comfortable after a lot of practice.
That’s not to say I don’t think running isn’t really cool. I like the feeling of it, and enjoy pushing myself to the point of injury without actually getting hurt. The couple of times I have gotten slightly injured, I enjoyed the process of figuring out how to fix myself. I like that I can take time off and come back feeling like I know what I’m doing because I understand so well how my running form works.
Running will always be there for me. It’s not something to stress about or get too excited and wild about. It’s no big deal.
After doing about 30 miles last week, I took yesterday off in preparation for racing this morning. I decided to try my luck at a 10k, since I didn’t think my fitness was good enough to attempt a PR in the 5k. Even though I took two weeks off before this last week’s training, I thought I might PR in the 10k, because my only other 10k race was on a very hilly and slippery course in the middle of winter.
I felt great this morning and tried to remember all of the things I stress about form on this blog. Sometimes it’s hard to get my form working in the most efficient manner in the 5k, because I tend to kind of thrash a bit in my attempt to go really fast. In the longer distances, it’s easier to remember to relax and let your body work efficiently. That’s why I like marathons so much. Anyway, I started the race today pretty slow and easy and let myself gradually speed up as I felt more comfortable. This approach seemed to work well, and I passed many people later in the race. I finished in 44:57 and was second in my age group. Not bad for a week’s work.
Well, I’m back again after another couple of weeks off. As usual, I took time off because I was too busy to run, and needed to direct all of my energy towards work.
I ran 6.2 yesterday, and the same amount today. I felt a little more tired today than the first day, but I have no pain anywhere. Again, I think it’s all because of my form. Running has become as easy and natural as riding a bike, it seems. If it can feel like that for me, I think it can be that way for most people.
One of the parts of form I focus on is posture, of course. I see so many people using more energy than necessary because their upper body isn’t quite right. Either they’re too upright and rigid, or their arms are held out too far from their center of mass. I don’t want to say that we should be slumped or collapsed, but I think that it is helpful to think of our upper body being more condensed and compact than perhaps it normally is. Keeping the arms up and in, and allowing our posture to be relaxed and normal helps us feel more centered, and allows us to be better balanced and efficient.
6 miles yesterday at about an 8:18 pace. 9.3 today at around 8:08. Feel like I’m starting to hit my stride, so to speak. No injuries, form seems good. Relaxed and balanced posture seems most important lately.
The main challenge as a distance runner is riding that fine line between health and injury. We’re always on the verge of getting hurt. The trick is being aware enough to feel when something is going wrong, and knowing what to do to keep it from getting worse.
It seems to me that the body works as a whole system. Too much attention is placed on certain aspects of form, like foot strike, in isolation from the rest of the body. However, what you do with your upper body can greatly affect what happens in your lower. Pain that appears in the ankles or feet could have its roots in poor mechanics in an entirely different part of the body.
I went nines miles today after a 5K and pig-out session yesterday. I was slow to get going, with the first 5 miles being in the high 8:00 min range. I felt some tightness, or the beginning of soreness in one knee during this period. I made sure my form was working, as I understand it, and immediately started moving faster and more efficiently. The slight discomfort in my leg ceased, and hasn’t returned yet today.
For many, the process of figuring out how to run efficiently is a long one. Some may never have to figure it out, and may have a more intuitive sense of how to comfortably run many miles. Others may never figure it out completely, and may limit their mileage to prevent injury. My goal is to know what it takes for me to be able to keep doing this in a relaxed and pain-free manner, while getting faster and adding miles.
I went another nine miles the day after the last run I blogged about. I decided I would take a day off, then do a 5K today. Today’s race offered cash awards for the top three finishers, so I was hoping to do well, but thought perhaps the money would encourage more people to show up. It did, and many of those people were pretty fast. So, I was not in the top, and ended up 4th in my age group with a time of around 21:14.
I am encouraged that I felt good, and am not injured, despite cramming in a fairly high amount of miles trying to get into shape. I kept a nice, steady pace just under 7:00 min/mile and never felt like I was straining. I’m also glad I didn’t get a side stitch, which tends to happen when I’m not in the best condition.
I thought perhaps I would do a 10K tomorrow, and I still might. However, I don’t really need to spend another 25 bucks to go on another tempo run, with no award at the end to show for it. I also just pigged out on some chicken pot pie and sweet potato pie (temporarily back on gluten because pie just sounded so good) so my stomach might not be especially cooperative tomorrow.