Tuesday, September 20, 2011

(Re)discovering the Essence of Running

This past week was the best week of running of my life.  Not because of mileage or personal records but because of disposition.  I ran for me when I wanted, where I wanted, as far as a wanted, and as fast or slow as I wanted.  The cool fall weather did not hurt any.

Running and smiling
It was not hard to rediscover what running is all about, it is in our heart, body, and soul.  As children running comes naturally as a way to play, compete, get places, and explore.  Turns out as adults, not much need change, but like most things we can over complicate.  I have put in a lot of miles from my first strides to today but through the years my motivations and execution have varied.
Running is therapeutic in times good and bad.  The fight or flight response is aptly named for a reason.  Since it is not prudent to jab-hook-cross, knee to the face, arm bar, and rear naked choke our way through life that leaves running. Nothing clears the mind and lets us live in the moment like getting outside and burning off energy.   Time slows down.  There is a lot of satisfaction to be had from meeting a new challenge, discovering a new path, competition, and the companionship that migratory behavior brings.

Activity for the week of 12 Sep 2011
This week took me back to a simpler time full of my favorite runs listed below.  Without the mix of unique challenges and social experiences I would have not bothered putting in the miles.  I found my limits and blew past them.  Today I feel wrecked and now comes recovery so I can do it all over again.

Time Challenge:  Monday I wanted to run 2 hours.  I find time is universal and easier to mentally manage than distance.  The idea here was to run an hour, turn around and cover the distance back in the same or less time.  It was hot and humid so I took my camelback.  Lefty came out for the first five miles before fading, my wife joined for the next six, and I finished the last five in solitude in the moonlight.  The entire experience was serene and I particularly enjoyed the transition from daylight to nightfall.

Recovery Runs:  I have not done a recovery run in years but they offer an amazing opportunity to socialize and even run errands.  Conversation pace is very appropriately named.  Naturally I felt worn at the beginning of the run but felt stronger as it progressed.  It seems counter intuitive but sometimes the best way to shake off discomfort is to do more of what brought it about in the first place.  Picking up groceries on the way home from the run gave it more significance.
Speed + Hills:  Wednesday I did strength training.  The same sensation that comes from squatting plates at the gym can be had by working steep hills and going for land speed records.  The same benefits will also be had.  I warmed up by running to the track.  I ran a mile as fast as my legs could carry me.  I kept running to my favorite triple switchback 100 foot elevation change hill and gracefully wound up and down it for 10 minutes.  My legs were burning by now and I recovered on the cool down home.  Never stopping and knowing how to recover on the move are valuable skills.

Alternate Intensity:  Also called fartleks among other things.  This is the run my dog really enjoys and when he is happy it makes me happy.  Every mile has a different flavor breaking up any monotony.  First is a challenge, and then recovery and repeat.  Lefty gets to do dog things on the recovery but is all business come time to work.  The last mile he pushed the pace, I pushed harder, and then we would repeat in a virtuous cycle.  Try taking a dog on an even paced long run, they don’t like it and rebel.

North Face Endurance ½ Marathon Trail Run:  Changes in scenery and discovering new places can reenergize any runner.  Running the same routes can get tedious, that is why there are road trips.  Breaking up the monotony of road running with a rocky, hilly, rooty, muddy, grassy, sandy course challenges the brain and body in ways road running cannot.  Add in competition and things quickly get interesting.  A trail course takes some real strategizing and focus.  I will blog about this race shortly.

What is your favorite challenge / run?


  1. Trail running is amazing. It's quite different from road running beside the obvious scenery differences. When I did my 50K trail run in TX I always felt training for that run was more about the places I was going and people I was training with. For me, road running was always less about camaraderie and more about time / speed then scenery. The other variable could be the type of individual the different sports attract rather than the nature of the run. The best way for me to describe it is if I fell at the beginning of a trail run, there would be ten people around me who would ask if I was ok, versus a road run where ten people would step on me because I was in the way. I enjoy both types, but agree there is a huge difference.

  2. Thank you sharing your insight. I just began running with my friend and we hope to commit to it. I have had a longing for ultrarunning, a deep passion, and I want to be able to run an ultra some day. I'm on the journey to accomplishing that dream but sometimes it's hard to stay motivated. The challenge is to reignite that fire.