The two hardest things about running are just one thing

The two hardest things about running successfully are really the same thing. The hardest thing about running isn’t finding stray cats on my trail runs and bringing them home, that I am really good at. The two hardest parts of running (I think) are:

!. Pacing – Being able to get a very good sense of pace for all your runs. This means heading out the door for a 25 K training run and not having to back it off after 15 K. This means running a race and knowing on which days you have it and then which days are going to be a struggle and perhaps the hardest of all, understanding which days could turn into the dreaded death march to the finish. Being able to set an early pace in your races which set you up to have the slightly negative split but leaving you near empty at the end. See earlier posts about me having to puke at the end of many races.

2. Understanding what your body is telling you. By this I mean, understanding the feedback you are receiving during your runs. Your body is constantly giving you indicators of how it is doing and thus how you are doing.There is the obvious feedback: breathing, stitches, fatigue etc but there is also more subtle data coming your way: Stride length, mental fatigue and so on. You must interpret all of this while properly moderating it through the excitement of race day, the flow of competition and the fact that how you feel now is not how you will feel in 15 minutes or 2 hours. You must run your own race and focus on all that you body is telling you.

Both 1 and 2 are the same ting. It is all about understanding how you run. How you specifically feel when things are good, bad and in between. Understanding the difference in pace for a half and a 10 miler. Getting to know yourself well enough to adapt. Almost everyone wears a watch almost all the time. I do not. I never wear a watch while training nor during races. I concentrate on the feedback I am getting not the numbers I am reading. I do look at timing clocks throughout races and sometimes they scare me. For a minute I start thinking “too fast” or “too slow” and I will change what I am doing but then I reassure myself that I know what I am doing. I have done it a million times before. My feedback dictates my pace. This works for me but other ways work for other people.

I guess one more very very and, ok one more very, important part of feedback is recognizing which pains are the “ouch thats hurts” and thats normal/ok and “ouch that hurts” and I need to slow and most likely stop now before I really damage myself. That is for another day.

Everyone has a running weakness I think. Often it is injury (common), sometimes it perserverance (much less common) and then there is nerves (many including me). When I was younger and immortal, I never worried about an upcoming race. Race mornings were like any other and I used to pull out my out my racing shoes (Assics) and feel ready to go. Now race mornings are a battle to keep myself on the right side of throwing up. I feel a great deal of self-imposed pressure, idiotic expectations I place upon myself. This I am still trying to understand and deal with.

That’s it for today, 25 K tomorrow.

PS – Sometimes I feel that this blog is stating very obvious stuff but perhaps by doing so I am getting a greater understanding of how I run and how I can run better. Thanks for indulging me.

PPS – there is a great article in Outside Magazine I came across which I found very interesting and talks about understanding running on a whole different level.