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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Caught in the Rain Again

I felt the first sprinkle on my second rep.

The weather report had told me that I had as much as an hour, but I knew better. The sky was getting darker by the minute, and with rain on the forecast for the rest of the day, this would be my only chance to get in any dry steps.

The warmup had been slower than usual, but still brisk enough to wake up the muscles. I was still shaking out the dust of last week's strenuous mileage, so a few aches and pains were to be expected. The important thing was that each lap felt better than the one before, and by the time I had completed my mile, I was, if not entirely warmed up, at least primed for action.

My goal for the morning was to repeat my 800s workout from two weeks ago, preferably with lower times, but definitely with higher levels of energy. Halfway through the first rep, I knew that I was going too fast, but I wrote it off as opening miles and let my body simply get more comfortable. I was finding that every step was making me think. Every turn had some effect on my pace, and each time I pushed off of my toes, I wondered if I was doing so too forcefully. In short, I was dramatically over-thinking my run, and I did not want to do that.

But then I got a gift. One drop, then another, then a downpour. Not the blinding rain of a ten-minute storm, but the solid, smooth drenching of an all-day flood watch. My hair flattened out, my clothes clung on, and slowly, the line between sweat and rain disappeared, at which point I was merely wet.

Personally, I tend to watch my step more carefully when it's raining, and I assume most other runners are like me. Just like people in this town get absolutely terrified of driving on wet roads, I find that most athletes will take corners a little more carefully and slow down just a bit on those hills. While I did not want to slow down, I was much more aware of the world around me, and it had a surprising effect. Instead of focusing on myself, I was thinking about the outside world, which let my brain begin to wander to long-forgotten memories of running in the rain as a high schooler, and all the little side stories that went along with it.

Before long, my speed work became a quick run around memory lane, and each rep felt shorter. I was still pushing hard and managing to maintain my form, but when I did not think about each step, each step felt better.

It's a delicate balance, and one that I believe I've written about before. You must train your body well. You must find your pace and form and drill it into your body correctly time after time in order to become a good runner. But to be a great runner, you have to go one step further. Once you've trained your body, you have to let it go and do what it will do. That's what separates the elite runner from the every day grinder.

Sometimes you just have to relax and go for a run in the rain.

Thursday's workout:
72 degrees, rain
8x800 on 1:00 rest
2:37     2:31
2:36     2:33
2:38     2:32
2:34     2:30

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