I have started running. Again. For the third year in a row.
In both 2011 and 2012, I have trained for a 5K, had ambitions of cultivating a running habit, run said 5K (in March and June of those years, respectively), and promptly quit running for the rest of the year.
As such, I am on several mailing/email lists for races and many registration forms come across my fingertips every month yet, I have a 2 race career in as many years. This year, an email to register for The Hospital Hill Run (my June race last year) arrived in my inbox. It was promoting the finishing gift they are giving this year. It was this awesome track jacket.
I honestly couldn’t resist. I am a sucker for shwag. But as I was considering my registration, a thought flickered. “What about the 10K?” I accidentally said it out loud which was a bit of a mistake as I seemingly spoke it into reality.
I have done two 5Ks. They were not particularly easy for me, but they were finished and as such, I know I can do it. That is apparently a fact that bores me. I know I can finish a 10K but I have not ever finished a 10K and the idea of doing so is apparently so fascinating that I have got to try it. (I say “apparently” because I’m not sure I know this part of my person who is intrigued by athletic challenges. She is a new person I am just now getting introduced to, so I am being careful not to say too much on her behalf.)
I have made the joke that every time I run, it is a miracle of modern science. It feels true. I am tall. I am heavy. I am top-heavy. (Ahem.) Runners are slim and lithe and quick. Runners are antelopes. I would liken myself more to a moose. Tall. Clumsy. Large. (I’m not really trying to be self effacing, but you get the picture.) It just seemed to me that certain people are built to run and others are not. I believed myself to be firmly camped in the latter category.
And then I read Born to Run. (I do not think I have properly thanked Rachel for sharing this book with me. It has done much for me. Not as much as the actual Rachel, but a lot.) You should read this book so I won’t give anything away, but suffice it to say that it made me question the notion that anyone would not be built to run. It made me think, “I ought to be running.”
So I am taking some advice in the book and trying to bring it to life. I just bought a new pair of minimalist running shoes. (I still fell into the Nike trap, mostly because I had a gift card, but I opted for their newest line of Nike Frees.) I am trying to take short strides. I am trying to keep good posture. I am trying to implement a mid-foot strike.
I am also trying to run like Caballo Blanco. He advises the author of Born to Run, Christ McDougall to run “easy, light, smooth, and fast.” To focus first on easy and light. If he runs easy and light, he’ll be running smoothly. If he is running easy, light, and smooth, then fast will follow. During my last run, I chanted a mantra in my head: “Easy. Light. Easy. Light. Easy. Light.” I almost certainly failed to achieve it but it seems like a reasonable place to start.
I borrowed another piece of advice from a sport that stands in rather stark contrast to running, except when it doesn’t: yoga. My favorite yogi far and away is Tara Stiles and I recently downloaded a video of her Strong session. During a particularly grueling 2-minute plank pose (which I have yet to attempt with any seriousness), Tara advises to find the place within in the pose where you can relax. Focus on your forehead. Focus on the backs of your hands. Direct attention to the parts of the body that can relax. I have taken to doing this while running. Some runs I get very winded. Other times my feet and ankles and calves are sore. In those moments I think about my elbows. Or my neck. Or my ears.
By paying attention to what feels good, I worry less about what feels not-so-good. It is certainly not a plan for perfect running, but it is a plan for perseverance and improvement.
My hope is that by challenging myself to a longer distance, and through the necessary increase in time it will take to train, I will become a more regular runner. Through being more deliberate about technique and form, that I will still be running in September instead of quitting after the race in June. Of course the bigger lesson here is that life is inter-disciplinary. What is good in yoga is good in running is good life. Smart diet habits are smart life habits. I am starting to see a much bigger picture here.