There are many reasons I'm not a great runner.
At least, that's what I'm learning with every book, article or tweet I read. More of this, less of this, NONE of that, and sleep more. Some coaches or authors will say that the more important thing is the diet. Others swear that running form is the magical key. Still more think it starts with some sort of inner peace, which, if that's the case, I'm in trouble.
But there are a few things I've read in recent months that have hit home a little more solidly, and I'm going to start trying to work with them. After all, if I'm giving this drive for Boston my focus for the next 90 days, it only makes sense to try anything to run smarter, longer, and faster, and I'm going to work them in that order. Smarter first. Then longer. Then faster.
I recently read Born To Run by Christopher McDougall (yes, I'm a little late to the game). I loved just about everything I read in there, except that whole bit about not eating meat. Sorry, not gonna happen. But everything about the running itself really hit home, especially the four keys to running, brought to you by the Caballo Blanco:
"Think easy, light, smooth, and fast. You start with easy, because if that's all you get, that's not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don't give a sh*t how high the hill is or how far you've got to go. When you've practiced that so long that you forget you're practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won't have to worry about the last one - you get those three, and you'll be fast."
If you don't know who Caballo Blanco is, go read Born To Run. It's great. If you do know who he is, you know what he meant. You have to get things to move easily. If you force it, you'll burn out, or break something. You'll progress to a point and then hit the wall, get frustrated, and never return. Start with easy, because if that's all you get, it's not so bad.
Well, I've never been one to do things easy, but I'm trying. I ran fourteen miles today, and when I got my bad side cramps, I stopped and let them pass. Didn't push through and make it harder. Just waited for it to pass, and enjoyed the return to the ride. And I thought about two very important things that I have to work on physically to get to easy and light. Form and cadence.
Cadence I'll leave for Monday's post, when I've had a chance to work on it, as a fourteen miler is probably not the time to increase your steps, but it's a perfect time to work on form. As long as you can stay focused. I realized three truths during today's run:
1) I will never be a pacer. I don't understand how they do it. One second I'm running 7:45, then 8:30, then 6:55. Thank goodness I'm only working on easy.
2) The body is dumb. When you have too much water, you get a cramp. When you don't have enough water, you get a cramp. Thanks for clearing that up, nature. Honestly, though, the symptoms of hyponatremia (too little sodium in the blood, often due to overhydration) and dehydration are startlingly similar. If you wait for your body to tell you how to fuel and hydrate, you're probably already in the danger zone.
3) When I start to get tired or my mind starts to wander, I drift backward. Popular opinion these days holds that the midfoot strike is the best running form, contrary to what I had always believed. As a taller-than-average seventh-grader, I thought it was my long legs that were propelling me to the front of the pack, but it must have been something else. The farther you reach that foot, the harder you'll be on the heel, knee, and lower back. So I try to focus on keeping my weight propelled forward, and it feels so much better, but it is clearly not yet my natural form. So I'll keep working.
Little changes in my form make a big difference on the muscles I'm using, and therefore the energy I have. I'll keep my shoulders pushing forward and my feet landing in the middle.
And if that's all I've got, it's not so bad.