Saturday, October 22, 2011

Looking Back

I've never done one of these sorts of posts, but I've had a chance lately to go back through the logic to think about some of the better pieces I've written over the last couple of years. Since I started writing the blog, I've written 130+ posts--most of them over the last two years--and run over 5000 miles.

Anyhow, here are some of what I consider the highlights:

How it works
This is how it works:

Training is doing your homework. It's not exciting. More often than not it's tedious. There is certainly no glory in it. But you stick with it, over time, and incrementally through no specific session, your body changes. Your mind becomes calloused to effort. You stop thinking of running as difficult or interesting or magical. It just becomes what you do. It becomes a habit.

Workouts too become like this. Intervals, tempos, strides, hills. You go to the track, to the bottom of a hill, and your body finds the effort. You do your homework. That's training. Repetition--building deep habits, building a runner's body and a runner's mind. You do your homework, not obsessively, just regularly. Over time you grow to realize that the most important workout that you will do is the easy hour run. That's the run that makes everything else possible. You live like a clock.

After weeks of this, you will have a month of it. After months of it, you will have a year of it.

Then, after you have done this for maybe three or four years, you will wake up one morning in a hotel room at about 4:30am and do the things you have always done. You eat some instant oatmeal. Drink some Gatorade. Put on your shorts, socks, shoes, your watch. This time, though, instead of heading out alone for a solitary hour, you will head towards a big crowd of people. A few of them will be like you: they will have a lean, hungry look around their eyes, wooden legs. You will nod in their direction. Most of the rest will be distracted, talking among their friends, smiling like they are at the mall, unaware of the great and magical event that is about to take place.

You'll find your way to a tiny little space of solitude and wait anxiously, feeling the tang of adrenaline in your legs. You'll stand there and take a deep breath, like it's your last. An anthem will play. A gun will sound.

Then you will run.

Why I Run
I can't speak for anyone else, but at a certain point the experience of running surpassed in value, and by a pretty wide margin, my desire to make sense out of it.

I don't know why I run. I don't know why I race. I don't know why I compete. I don't need to know. Because running means more to me than curiosity. It goes deeper than knowledge. I run. I compete. I move on down the line. I'm a runner.

For us runners, the question of “why” is pretty moot. Not because it may not be interesting, or important, from a certain point of view, but because we’ve left the question of the meaning of running behind. After all the questions have been asked, and all the answers given, in spite of the disagreement on essences, physiology, rationales, training strategies, trail running, road racing, i-pod wearing, mid-foot striking, turnover cadences, arm carriages, Jack Daniels, Arthur Lydiard, 20 miles a week or 100, 5k or the 50k, whether it's really the Miles of Trials or the Trial of Miles, after all the words have been spoken and keyboards have been pounded, meanings given and ideologies subverted... After all this, we runners bend down and tighten the laces, open the door, brace for the cold and are renewed: another godawful, glorious, and meaningless 8 miler.

Lords of the Sidewalk

The Tempo Run as Art

The Sickness of Running
We have the health of endurance, the ability to go on, the strength to not only run for hours, but toenjoy our bodies and the sensations they give us when they are working. We need almost nothing at all to find our happiness: only a few hours, a stretch of road, perhaps a friend, or even better a competitor. We hide in our spindled chests an unusually large and heaving heart--and in our heads a warbled tune, a song, as we move on down the road. Do you know the feeling I know? When your legs have disappeared, and there is only your heart, your lungs, and your eyes skimming disembodied through the air? We are Aristotle's featherless bipeds, we runners. Though we have no wings, we have taught ourselves to fly.

Passion and Discipline

Half-Steppers, etc

Understanding the Body, Becoming a Body

And, one that I did not write--written by Guest Blogger Scout7, which remains uber-popular:
How to Run Like a Stoic

Thanks for reading! And keep running!

Jeff

6 comments:

  1. I perhaps not coincidentally got a lot faster after reading to Run Like A Stoic post.

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  2. An EXCELLENT summation of why we are what we are and why we do what we do. THANK YOU for writing and posting this!

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  3. I just started reading your blog, and I'm glad I found it! As your "Why Running and Philosophy?" section states, this blog really does give me a lot to chew on while getting in all those miles.

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  4. @Josh--Scout helped me run better, too. That's a great training article, and it just proves that a qualitative approach need not be less intelligent than a quantitative approach. I actually thought of Scout when I read this article this weekend:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/opinion/sunday/measurement-and-its-discontents.html

    @Kate: thanks for the kind comment! Cheers!

    @Daniel: Keep thinking and running, sometimes both at the same time.

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  5. Love the "How it Works" section - sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the fact that one does not simply "achieve", rather one works hard and goals are achieved incrementally. Keep up the good work.

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