I Know What I Know

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When I was a kid, I was a pretty fast runner. At one point, at about 16 or 17, I ran a 40 in about 4.5 seconds. I wasn’t great at 100m, but at 200m, I could really get some speed. Beyond that, I didn’t care for running. I was never, ever a distance runner. In fact, for much of my life, I have mocked joggers, saying “I only run when chased.”

When I began jogging, I was slow and easily winded. I would run the length of a soccer field—something that I once sprinted 23 times during a punishing soccer practice—and felt like I was going to die. Then I would run the field and back and feel like I was going to die. Then I started running around the field. Then two fields. Then I began running on the roads. One kilometer. One mile. Two kilometers. Two miles. I felt less and less like I was going to die. I dropped ten pounds pretty quickly.

It’s an interesting process, this. If you are overweight, as I was, you have to work so hard to move your body around that you begin to shed weight quickly, which means that you can quickly run farther and farther and faster and faster.

Initially, I was nervous about running on the trails because I had broken my foot while running up there in an earlier attempt to start jogging regularly. But I don’t like running on the roads, and so I took to the trails, which, unlike many of the roads around here, are most decidedly not flat. When I first began running the trails, there were hills where I simply said “Fuck that. I can’t run that any faster than I would walk it.” And so I walked it. And then I ran part of it. And then more. And then all of it.

After a while, I reached a point where the only reason I wasn’t running any farther in the morning was simply because I didn’t have enough time. That’s where I am now. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I run somewhere around 6.5 km (the first and last km are on the road). On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I run somewhere around 5.5K on the road. On Saturdays, I run at least 10K. Sometimes I rest on Sunday, but last weekend I ran another 10K.

I suspect that over Spring Break, I will run a 10K every day.

My Nike+ tells me that I’m generally running at a 7:33/mile pace, which is just amazing to me and I find it difficult to believe. This is significantly faster than my Nike+ average page, which ranges between 9:33 and 10:15 per mile, usually; this is because on Tuesdays and Thursdays I walk for a kilometer up the hill to get to the road where I run; on Saturdays, the hike up to the Shoreline trail is awfully, awfully steep and takes a couple of kilometers of hiking just to get up there. I also have some bad habits that remain from when I first started running. There are places where I have always stopped and walked for a few steps where I still do, even though I do not need to anymore. It is a bad habit and speaks to just how much of running is a mental game.

I say all of this by way of making this point: I feel slow.

Friday morning, as I was walking for a few steps up a steep hill at the trailhead where I begin my return 3 km, I noticed that a runner I see all the time was coming up about 100 yards behind me. I ran my normal pace up to the (unbelievably muddy) service road, crossed, then ran a little further where I noticed that the other runner was catching up to me. I stopped, let Molly sniff around, and let him pass me. I figured it would be annoying for us to be constantly chasing one another on a single-track trail.

I let him go on for a few seconds, watched him round the corner, and started up the last little bit of hill to the highest point on the trail. The rest is all downhill.

This morning was an eye-opener. This other runner, who I know is a marathoner and who I see all the time on the trails, has always struck me as both committed and pretty quick.

But I kept catching him. I would round a corner and there he would be, much closer than I expected. I found myself slowing down to give him some space, and I found myself repeatedly surprised at how much faster than him I was—and how much lazier, I remembered, as I watched him run through those couple of spots where I walk for 5 or 10 steps to catch my breath. It’s a testament to just how much all this running business is mental. I don’t need to walk for ten steps.

So I was resolved this morning, as I hiked up to the Shoreline trail to run, that I would not stop to walk for ten steps at the gate to St. Joe’s Catholic school.

I failed. I made up an excuse. Molly needed to eat some snow. I had a little stitch in my side. I always walk for ten steps here.

Tomorrow I’ll run another 10K. I’ll make the same resolution. We’ll see what happens.


Written by srogers

March 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I used to use the “only run when chased” line but around the time youth and vigor disappeared over the horizon, it hit me that this is foolish. I no longer run at all. I turn and fight.


    March 13, 2011 at 10:23 pm

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