Saturday, 16 November 2013

Learning to run

I realise now that I do not even know how to run properly. I am having to learn.

Running has always been a part of my life, from my earliest memories of running around in the sun till I had heat stroke, to hating cross country at school, to becoming a regular runner for health when a student, to starting to enter races on 2 September 2012 (my memory tag for that day).

I have progressively become faster since that first race, moving up to 10 km races and running the last in 48 minutes.

But now, as I read 'The Art of Running Faster' and watch Olympic runners closely, I realise I do not know how to run properly at all.

There are moments now on training runs when I start to feel, 'This is running'.

On 14 November 2013, I went for a long run as I had received some sad news. Perhaps it was because I was meditating on this rather than thinking of running, it suddenly came together.

Instead of stretching forward in an attempt to go faster, I was pushing back against the earth. My focus was on the balls of my feet launching me forward.

As I landed with a more bent knee, I felt lower to the ground, and lowering myself further settled me more into true running.

By the end, as I neared home, my breathing was almost leisurely, but my legs were moving rapidly and stretching long behind me.

It was lack of strength in my legs that became the limiting factor, not oxygen debt. I was entering a new level of efficiency of movement, and suddenly I felt like a child again, running to see what it felt like, what my body could do, opening a door to a whole new world of possibilities.

My legs ached afterwards and the next day as muscles had been used and stretched like never before.

The point of the stretching exercises in the book suddenly became apparent, to lengthen out that movement.

Only now that I realise how little I know can I really start to learn.

My weekly runs in the park are a guage of what difference changing my running can make. Today my time for the 5 km run was not only a personal best for the course, but my fastest ever 5 km, at 21.41.

This is an amazing 30 seconds faster than my previous best.

It was a little tough going. I used a 5-step rhythmic breathing cycle for the first km (3 inhaling, 2 exhaling), then switched to 3-step (2 inhaling, 1 exhaling).

Whenever I felt I was overdoing the effort, I tried to stretch my trailing leg a little more, settle down by bend in my leading leg a little more and easing up slightly on the step rate.

I needed a minute to recover at the end, but did not feel as a bad as when I set my last PB.

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