Showing posts from June, 2012

Give Me Words: some thoughts on athletic genius as we approach the Olympics

"Lewis, give me words."

--Ashton Eaton to NBC announcer Lewis Johnson, shortly after breaking the decathlon world record

The Olympics is on everyone's mind in the running world. Though I wasn't able to watch the 10,000m trials, I did manage to follow it pretty well by refreshing on the message board. I'm psyched to see that Ritz and Teg made the team along with Rupp (who of course was the favorite) as I count those guys as part of my generation. (1)

Though I never approached the elite levels of the sport, I guess I got close enough to understand just how extraordinary these runners are. When I watch swimming or gymnastics or the NBA finals, I am impressed by the athletes, inspired by their efforts, and I can see the spark of athletic genius. But when I watch the distance runners, that genius comes through in a way that is simultaneously more intimate and less understandable, if that makes any sense at all.

As David Foster Wallace explains in "Ho…

Simple Thoughts on Simple Stuff

"Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify." --"Thoreau, Where I Lived, and What I Lived for"
You are probably familiar with the above quote by Thoreau. If I were not saving my philosophical energies for other projects, I would ruminate on running as a practice of returning to the simple.

Instead, I want to sum up th…

Born to Run and the Allure of the Natural

It is popular these days (and attractive to us runners) to believe that humans are born to run and that running is a natural practice that somehow lies prior to culture or is at least shared across cultures. Of course Chris MacDougall makes this case most vividly in the book Born to Runby connecting running with two things: the ancient "pre-civilized" culture of the Tarahumara and the remarkably fertile image of the bare foot. He gives us a picture of running as something at least in principle raw, pre-consumer, and innate. These qualities of running, especially as practiced by this primitive tribe, make it a possible practice of liberating ourselves from a decadent, insulated, sedentary Western consumer culture.

The bare foot is a particularly potent sign for this liberation. It is a double image. A bare foot reminds us of two contrasting feelings at the same time: the stinging pain of stepping on a sharp gravel and the bliss of digging the toes into soft and dewy grass. By…

Race Report: Music City Distance Carnival 5000m

The gods be fickle dicks with teeny pricks...and malice. Lots of malice. --J. Scovill

The running gods can only take so much. Since I wrote last week about how my training had been going well and played the expert before my goal race, I should have known the running gods would not be pleased. I even threw out the ambitious time goal of 15:30, as if it were a foregone conclusion. Well, it didn't turn out that way. I never felt great (or really even good) and ended up running 16:00 even though it was a perfect day for racing.

I was disappointed and moped around pretty good after the race.

On the positive side, there were a few things that came together that prevented me from running my best, some of which were mistakes I made in racing, others were things that just happen.

The most fundamental mistake that I made was that my race plan was both too rigid and too centered around pacing. I had imagined myself coming through 1600m in 4:56 feeling good, and I was convinced that would be …