The Attraction and Addiction to Long Distance Running
I like to run. Everybody doesn’t and that’s just fine. I also fence, am a master scuba instructor, put enough miles on Harleys to reach the moon and part way back, fly planes, poorly, and ride horses. Everybody doesn’t and that’s just fine too.
I read a long time ago “if you can’t run fast, run long”. I can’t run fast. I started running long and haven’t stopped. Anything more than a sprint is long running. I run races sometimes and one can run a 10k almost all out. Mostly I just like to get up every morning and run.
I’m recovering from a running injury and it’s been a long, slow, challenging road back. Coincidentally, I took first place in my age/division in the race that did me in.
I’ve been running since 8th grade track (and boy am I tired) - sure with some breaks. I picked it up for the last time in 2004, and I likely won’t ever put it down again. I’ve gone longer and longer. Half-marathons are real accessible to most anyone; some dedication, a bit of commitment. And of course there’s 10k’s 5k’s, etc. I always run when I travel.
My running hero is Walt Stack. I only learned about him a few years ago. He started running in earnest when he was near 60. Yes he was in extraordinary shape to begin with given his construction work and his swimming. Still he managed to build up to 17 miles a day every day. He was a cult figure in California and also had some brief notoriety in a Nike commercial.
So whenever I get depressed, dejected, tired, anxious, whatever about my own running, I think of when he started in life, how far he ran, and for how many years.
Recently, I met a new inspiration. Since I run alone and tend not to bore the local folk with what I learned from running today, it’s been fun and interesting exchanging long distance thoughts with someone of a different experience level and viewpoint.
Anyone can run. It’s not age limiting. I’ll be 60 years old in just a few months. Just desire and as long as your body holds up. I have never had a knee/hip/joint problem. Sure lots of muscular aches and pains from doing it, overdoing it. I once lost six weeks to a stress fracture on the top of my foot when I landed on the edge of a curb wrong. And I did over extended myself in that half-marathon and tore a calf muscle-six months out. Neither was particularly painful, just annoying and sidelining.
A few years ago I was running medium distances and didn’t understand why I couldn’t just keep going and going. Well you can’t. You have to train properly and learn a lot. And I did, eventually running a few marathons. That takes real dedication and hard, sometimes unpleasant work. Even more so for ab initio runners. And don’t kid yourself, very few people enjoy the last 6 or so miles of a 26.2 mile run.
I don’t do ultra-marathons or triathlons. They are for crazy people ;-). I also don’t cave or ice dive, or do aerobatics or speed on the highway. Other people can and that’s just fine.
There’s running, there’s training, and there’s racing. Mostly I run. Lots of easy miles. Sometimes I train and then run a race, as I am right now (training, not yet racing). I run early and usually in the dark. Before anything happens in the day. I like the quiet, the aloneness. It’s peaceful. I don’t listen to music and, thankfully after all these years, I learned how to tune out all the other noise - especially since November. I like the achievement, the accomplishment, the challenge. Most importantly, it helps organize my composure to face the day positively, be a good person, and be productive.
Most runs are slow, easy and effortless. There’s no desire to end and no searching or hoping for the finish. Reaching the last mile is a sad thing, not for rejoicing. I don’t run to say I ran, here’s my log, I did it. It’s to be in the running moment for longer periods of non stressful, effortless, easy time. I try to start early enough to relax and do it easy - to not rush to get done to start day’s compelling list, or first appointment. It’s about focus, the one thing at a time, not thinking ahead, in the moment - it’s all that —- sound familiar?
Yes, it’s all about the running moment – how am I doing at this moment compared to my potential at this moment, calculating in reserves to complete today’s course. At end of course how did I do overall today versus how well I could have done overall today. No more, no less.
I run because it’s important to my body, it’s important to my mental health and because when I don’t or can’t run, somehow I don’t have as good a day.
Some people who don’t run think it’s boring or monotonous. Say as opposed to biking the same exact route or doing the same yoga routine every Saturday morning. We like what we like. Part of the attraction for me is/was falling in love with the process.
From Chris Hadfield’s “Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”
- Success is feeling good about the work you do through the long unheralded journey that may or may not wind up at the launch pad (medal ceremony or even finish line).
- You can’t view training solely as a stepping stone to something loftier (a race). It’s got to be an end in itself.
- The secret is to try to enjoy it.
It’s also Groundhog Day - reliving the experience over and over as you fine tune, hone and get it just right.
For me it’s also a form of quiet meditation. The “ordinary”, the “routine”, the repetition *is* the path so I smile, breathe and go slowly. When I race, I smile, breathe and don’t go too slowly.
I’m not suggesting you should or could run. If you want to, short of a doctor’s no-no, there is no reason why you couldn’t.