I've just come back from a 21km run and it was fantastic and I'm just going to reflect on what worked and how it went to perhaps explore why.
I headed out just after half-past one in a long sleeve top. It was pretty cold outside. The original goal was to run 5km up the hill and onwards a little bit before turning around.
I've been thinking on a couple of my last runs that I should probably slow down a bit more and try to maintain a consistent, albeit slower pace throughout my run. This analysis was done on the back of the last couple of 10Km runs I'd done where I'd noticed that I've got a tendency to speed up in in beginning and also at the end of the run.
The net effect of this is that I think I tend to strain in the end when perhaps I could just coast over the finish line.
So with that in mind, I've decided to head out a bit slower and try to keep it calm, cool and collected and I think this is what ultimately made this particular run so easy.
I didn't push forward, I just pulled back when I was moving a bit fast or when I was establishing a stitch and then I'd just 'canter'. This means that I was able to notice a lot of things about my running behaviour.
For example, I slowed down and my feet where not being banged up and usually after an 11Km run they are pretty torn up with impact shock and sometimes blisters. I still think that this is partly to do with the rate I'm running at and perhaps coupled with my weight - I'm gaining weight.
Either way that combination is not great, so slowing down has fixed the 'thunder' in my feet that I've been having lately.
Slowing down has allowed me to concentrate on listening to the pain, and adjusting. Usually, I ignore pain when I run 'fast' around say 4"30 or so. Its almost like you're focusing so much on pace, that you don't care about what your feet are feeling like or going through.
So with this slower style, I could find a pace that did not mash up my feet. This I think, is also a large reason why running past the usual threshold of 10-11Km was so easy and why I was not even aware of any discomfort. What I was aware of was a distinct lack of discomfort in my feet, and perhaps I should just see how far they would take me.
So the shoes are not the problem (i never thought they were, as I've been using them for years, at least this particular model). The other thing that might have played a part in it, was that I was listening to my favourite songs of the year. That helped.
From a psychological point of view, I was not hard on myself because I'd already said to myself at the start of the run that I was going to go slower.
In the uphill stages or the more treacherous terrain where I could have struggled, I just said to myself 'calm down, you're running slower now so if you need to run any slower that's fine' and this approach worked.
Being ok with slowing down and perhaps speeding up is ok. Going one speed or the speed you predicted you should go at, takes it's toll, particularly psychologically to maintain and also physically and I think corroborating the feeling in your arms, legs, arms with appropriate adjustments, including the pace, makes the run smoother - this is a breakthrough really.
Running should not be turmoil or an obstacle.
I was wary about wearing long sleeves though. I've got a good track record of enjoying running in short sleeves and this is because ultimately I warm up sufficiently, so I've resisted the need to change. And I think this is what is important, being ok to adapt, even below expectations, is what made this run better than all others this year - and certainly x2 as long as usual.
The route took me back to my old workplace, around it and all the way back again. It was nice to be in familiar surroundings and I felt fine.
Look, I'd be lying if I said that I did feel uncomfortable at times, especially as the clocked ticked on over the hour mark, but I just slowed down and kept it in gear, steady and calm and ultimately this avoided disaster.
Looking back at the stats, in the end, 4"59 pace is mighty impressive because I did not think I'd be reaching anywhere near that. if anything I thought perhaps at my pace I would be trundling on at around 6 minutes per km. That shows that it wasn't that slow, and I was just running at where I was most comfortable at and that is variable throughout the route.
I never look at my watch routinely when running.
I've always found that this helps to reduce the stress and strain on accommodating expectations - I think it also messed with your stride.
I don't think we should have expectations about who long we take, we should perhaps have expectations about how long we'll run for and then manage all the factors in the run to make it happen - if that means stopping, slowing down, taking a picture or taking a pee whatever - do it and then carry on running.
As it happens I needed a leak at about 16km in, so I pulled over into a footpath that was abandoned (I had a good nose about to ensure I'd not be interrupted).
This is the first time I've needed to take a whizz mid-run, but I stopped. I rationalize with myself, that it would be uncomfortable not to, and why stop this zen-like run by having to worry about that.
When it comes to my preparation in terms of what I ate - nothing special: I just had my usual porridge and a cup of decaf coffee.
I did, however, sleep until 12 pm. This was an important factor too perhaps. I was well-rested.
In the end, the long sleeve top was almost unnoticeable and maybe it actually helped me stay comfortable and zen.
This is exactly how its supposed to be.