Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Time to put in

At the end of every run, I reset the watch. The clock, pace and distance counters of my Garmin wipe out the previous effort that left me soaking, displaying neat, clean zeros.

The sobering reality of the new year, when the January darkness rules my free time, hits hard on a runner's psyche. From this point, I slowly take a body that has run multiple marathons, hundreds upon hundreds of hours, and try to coax it back to life.

A 5K jaunt may be agonizing -- almost like I haven't run almost 2,000 times in the past eight years -- lies, body says, lies. As I take a breather, somewhere miles away from my condo's front steps, stretching those aching calves that could use a little extra bending, it seems like I've just started all over again.

Why did I come so far, only to feel like I haven't gone anywhere?

The body rests, and your muscles begin the long slide to a state where they can start thinking about what atrophy must feel like. The resting heart beats a little faster, not having felt the pain of sucking in oxygen only possible with hard effort (or sub-8 minute miles). The legs, used to striding across sidewalks and pavement in what movement can only be imagined as graceful -- Kenyan like -- can only bear to be fluid for no more than a few hundred metres, clomping down on pavement like rusted hooves. And it feels just as heavy.

Running? This isn't what my mind's eye imagined.

Fact: I've pounded out more than 13,000 miles in the past eight years; I've run 22 marathons; I've tracked my usual downtown routes hundreds of times. Also, fact: Yesterday's run of 10 miles was a silent struggle.

Yet.. Yet, when I get past the pain, when I make it to the ninth kilometre, something clicks in, I remember why. Sort of like listening to that song that's been repeated on your iPod -- only once in a while do you zero into the lyrics, when the words and harmony connect with your attention that you truely understand why you loved that song in the first place.

It's the same with running. I suppose in those early days of a marathon training, a month from when I'd start thinking of hitting the roads for the length of three podcasts, I rediscover what it is about running that grabbed me.


I was reading about Canadian runner Cam Levins. He surprised the running world by snagging a breakthrough of the year award. How? By outworking everyone -- 150 to 190 miles a week.

“Last year showed me that as long as you don't set limits on how hard you can train, then the same can be said for races. I have continued to improve each year because there was never any doubt in my mind that I wouldn't as long as I put in the work to deserve it.” - from Flotrack

Hours and miles were reaffirmed mid-run one night while I was pounding out the last stretch of a six-mile run, listening to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's The Heist. A few words from Ten Thousand Hours -- the theory that with hours put in, you gain brilliance -- resonated as I strode down the hill, letting gravity assist in my hard work.

Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is

Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is


That's it. With each run, I'm rebuilding my cardio and those muscles that feel most comfortable when bent at a 45 degree angle, best seen in that zone between jog and sprint. I'm geting used to the pain, getting used to getting stronger, rebuilding and shoring up blood vessels and connections that will deliver more oxygen and blood cells to my engines, so I can run longer, faster, stronger. I've always wondered, since switching to long-distance running, why I often can almost conjure bouts of runner's high. Often after six or seven miles, my body hits a pace unfathomable on any other day, but it feels like i'm just putting my body through its paces. I zone out, tune into my form and distance disappears, as does time.

Nothing that you can hold, indeed. It's so easy to lose hold of that, what it is to be a runner, but it's entirely possible to find your way back to running mojo -- you just have to find it for the first time. It then it just takes plenty of miles. And time.

10.5 miles in 1:34

2012 totals

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