I want to run faster.
It’s not a new feeling, and is hopefully a natural reaction to what essentially becomes ‘plodding’ once the body gets used to regularly covering a few miles. Around October 2012, what little technique I possessed was nothing more than low-cadence, lumbering pace, absent of urgency.
Worse, boredom was starting to set in
Something Had To Be Done
I bought a book called The Art Of Running Faster and, to cut a long story short, completely changed that technique. Started all over again essentially, with the biggest change being to run on my toes rather than striking down with my heel. Then winter set in, restricting the time I could spend putting those exciting changes into practice.
That goes some way to explaining my eagerness once February arrived. I believed the changes in style could produce positive results. I wanted to see some evidence too, so I decided spring started on the 32nd day of the year and was the time to kick back in.
Low Pressure, Cold Easterly
No sooner had the visit to the physio got everything back on track (or tarmac, if you want to be pedantic) than the Gods visited upon us a great dumping of snow. Drifts taller than a tall man, ice-crusted pavements, and temperatures forgetting how to be positive – all enough to halt progress having only just got going again.
Although I spent some of the enforced lay-off metaphorically climbing the walls, it also offered an opportunity for reflection. This was not a Bad Thing by any stretch of the imagination, particularly where the advice of the book was concerned.
Wanting to run faster, it’s tempting to think the pace should be flat out all the time, aiming for tiny incremental improvements with each run. Of course, the body can’t sustain that. Unintentionally, however, most of my runs ended up along these lines. If I wanted to go quicker…
Time To Slow Things Down
As the snow has cleared, so I’ve been doing the miles again. And my focus has been on learning to run slower. Keeping my feet moving quickly but with shorter steps. It’s all very well being able to run two miles reasonably quickly, but I’m supposed to be running 13-and-a-bit in September and need to build stamina.
It seems to me that humans are very good at reading a piece of advice, recognising its potential usefulness, and then forgetting all about it. Why else is Twitter littered with motivational quotes?
And I’m every bit as guilty. I took a lot from The Art Of Running Faster, but I read it once and basically assumed that all the tools were suddenly available to me. Only when I forced myself to reflect on what I was actually doing compared to what I thought I was doing did I realise that certain suggestions weren’t being enacted.
With the benefit of that reflection, I set out this morning (7th April) to do a longer run without pushing myself to an unsustainable limit. The result was 5.8 miles in 54 minutes, which is a good step towards the 10K I’ll be running in just five weeks time.
All Areas Of Life
I want to run faster.
I also want to write more, read more books, travel to more places, and be the person I want to be for my family and friends. In the words of Queen: “I want it all … and I want it now.”
Hopefully I manage not to be selfish about it. Certainly, I try not to be.
I’m conscious of making the most of this one shot at life, but in trying to do that I ignore sensible advice every day. Impulse wins out far too often in the name of trying to do as much as possible. Now I’m writing this post because I’ve learnt something, even though there was nothing really to learn. I just curbed the impulse for a change.
Daily, I receive a podcast from the artist Michael Nobbs emphasising the importance of making one small step toward a creative project. It’s advice born of a particular circumstance, and every day I read blogs and tweets by other people – some who are part of Michael’s Sustainably Creative community, some who aren’t – who have learnt similar lessons.
Like Michael, many have been diagnosed with illnesses such as CFS/ME; conditions that often leave them exhausted and in physical pain, consigned to hoping that tomorrow will provide sufficient energy to pursue their ambitions. But pursue them they do, even though there are frequent days when all they can do is rest.
In that context, what right do I have to get frustrated? Why feel like I haven’t achieved enough on days when I at least achieve something?
Life is about balance, and I’m fortunate to be in control of mine. I aim not to be selfish, but part of me feels like I am because I don’t acknowledge my fortune often enough. Which is why I offer the following advice, and hope you’ll be pleased with the results if you can enact it, or some version of it, in your own life:
If you want to run faster, start by learning to run slower.