I went for a run today. It was a good day for it. The last run I did was at crazy 'o clock in the peak mid-day sun and I paid dearly for it.
This time it was overcast, kind of cold and asking for a run. I've still had a horrendous blister on my pinky toe from the aforementioned run. After a quick chat with my dad, the conclusion was that it would be smarter to not go for a run, particularly if it was sore.
The thing is, is that it is not sore but it looks really sore. It's basically a blood-blister but now has next to no physical sensation. So it doesn't hurt. With that, I figured I must go for the run. I expected that it would burst and I'd have an icky sock but that's OK - running for me is far better than having an icky sock.
I went for my run, no drama. Peeled off my sock and by blood-blister looked up at me as if to say, 'missed me?' as it was unaffected by the 11km run. I was pretty impressed. Anyway, so I still have it in its ballooning glory.
The run was fairly good, at times tough but manageable. I ended up posting my 3rd fastest run for 2020 - so the blister actually could have propelled me to success! Unlikely.
I started off pretty easy as usual and felt a little uncomfortable because I think I'm getting a little heavy and the pegasus' isn't light either. I was convinced that my under-pronation would mash up my blister...(and kind of hoping it would)
The run was a progressively tough run. I find that I can usually run hard for most of the run and its just either the feet or the inner thighs that start to fatigue around the end. I'm still pretty cardiovascularly fit and have no problems maintaining my breathing. I'm just sort of lugging around a bigger frame.
I felt that I was at times moving more fluidly - by that, I mean that I was using my arms and thrusting them down(ok not trusting but moving) and productively contributing to my strides(which is why I want to do it). Basically you feel like you're not fighting with your weight or the landing of your shoes or thinking about the strength you decide to consciously have to use to push off. All that stuff shouldn't be on your mind, it should be sort of, I don't know - just happen.
I think for that to happen you need to calibrate yourself, slow down if you're running too fast, change gears if you need do etc until you're less worried about whatever it is that you're focusing on. Its a complete calibration and it has to happen while your running, like a constant manipulation of what's annoying/hurting you and then deciding what to do about it.
In most cases that means slow down, but other times it could mean speed up so limit the amount of time spent on your feet(or I don't know something that makes it better). I think most people don't act on it - they just keep to the same plan they had then they started the run. Examples include not stopping, maintaining a certain pace/time or something else that predetermined that they just refuse to change even if it would help that recalibration.
Ultimately like life, you're alone - in your head, in your body in your thoughts and even if you're running with someone - everything you feel happens to you, every painful twitch, strained sensation or irritation is something you experience and is something, especially in running that you must come to grips with yourself.
And when you do, its a personal win for your decisions. That's why being involved in your 'ownness' and playing your own manager, race leader, nutritionist, fitness instructor can make you better than anyone else who wants to do it for you. By all means, they can support you, but you need to decide to take the advice, to wake up in the morning, to try out the new regime. You are the thing that will make everything happen.
In many ways that's why I like running because it puts you in touch with yourself and you start doing stuff for yourself, you start listening...calibrating. You act on yourself for yourself. That's an empowering activity. Running is important to me in this way. I do have selfish, self-centred tendencies at times and this is when it's really ok.
For the last few runs, I've started noticing more things and that gets in the way of things should just happen. For instance, I'm noticing my weight, I'm noticing the strain in my inner thighs, I'm noticing the lack of movement throughout my arms...I'm noticing way too damn much stuff. Its really affecting my zen, man!
One thing I like about running is no matter how fast you are going, you always get to feel a certain feeling, where you're at a comfortable limit that you're willing to not pass because otherwise, you'd have more trouble than you currently have and just being on the current level constantly is tough enough.
I think when I was 25, I had this window, and all the way up till now at 33 - I still feel that window of toughness and its such an honest measurement of effort that you need to contend with while you're running.
I think that it will always be there irrespective of your age. For me, that window or phase you get when you're running is like a high - an uncomfortable high which rewards you mentally while you're there fighting with it. It validates your effort and tells you that your time there is worth it. If you didn't have that feeling at that stage, you're wasting your time - you could be doing something else more productive.
In a way, I think I aim for that uncomfortable steady-state because you are able to stay there but it's just a matter of maintaining effort but its totally doable. It's about the place where if you do any more, you're might fall off!
For a professional athlete, this mindset wouldn't work but maybe it would just for a while until they train to get over it. I'm not training to get over it. Some people train like athletes and have this mindset - it's not really maintainable in the long term. You want to be able to have it when you're running at 70.
Ultimately if I'm doing it right, I'm maintaining that uncomfortable steady state until the run is done. That is a good run.
I don't care too much about measurements because, as I said, I think the measurement will vary over time but you'll always be able to reach this window of productivity albeit perhaps at different measurements/metrics than before. So in that way metrics aren't useful but feel is.
Besides, I don't know when I'm running 4"30(and I really don't want to be paying attention to that) but I know when I'm in that uncomfortable steady-state.
I guess that's my point - running is a privilege and its to be eternally grateful that you can always reach for that steady-state irrespective of your age. I'm always grateful that I can physically go for a run, I'm not sick, or disabled and it's just a matter of wanting to do it. That in itself is a freedom.
The best things in life are free.