“Running is a great sport. It requires only a pair of shoes for equipment. It’s portable because you can take them with you and do it almost everywhere.”
~Leader of the running group I belong to
I will openly admit to anyone that I am lucky. I have my father’s genetics when it comes to running. My dad was a state track and cross country runner in his youth. His parents didn’t have much money, so instead of driving when he turned 16, he would run between point A and point B. It was faster anyway, according to him. We both have the endurance that allows us to run and run and run and run. My dad, in fact, demonstrated how good his endurance was when he ran his fastest mile ever while in boot camp wearing Army boots (circa 1973) and a full pack. It was sub-5 minutes, if memory serves.
I come by my running naturally. I ran track. I ran cross country. I ran when I was stressed in college freshman year especially. I ran to and from softball practice. And when I played soccer – I ran a lot there too.
As an adult, my running got fucked up. I lost whatever I had held onto as a kid. Watch children run. See how effortlessly they do it. They have amazing natural form. They know when to slow down, when to speed up, how to recover quickly. I held onto that through early college – then lost it.
Over a year ago, I started running again as a way to get back in shape. My first real run was the 6 mile downhill for Beat the Bridge – a race where you need to beat the raising of the bridge. It felt great. Then I ran others after that – all the while doing my runs here and there. But something still felt off about it. I was working too hard. I started chalking it up to the fact I was just older. My body couldn’t handle the pounding of feet against pavement anymore.
Then I had a shitty day at work – came home to run it off – got pissed at my headphones that kept falling out while I was running – and discovered my problem.
I couldn’t hear my body.
The first few blocks without music blasting in my ears reminding me that I have a rhythm to my running. My body – feet, arms, and lungs- all work in a rhythm that once found allows me to just keep running. When I found that rhythm of breathing and feet hitting the ground and arms swinging, I flashed back to being 15 years old running on the track doing our favorite 8 repeat 800m runs. I remembered at that moment that if I found that rhythm; all was well.
From there on out, I have never listened to music while I ran again.
Last summer, I read a book that most our praising for its barefoot running endorsement – Born to Run. I’ve written about it before. It is a book that is being heralded as the catalyst for many to convert to barefoot running, so I would like to go on record saying it examines the industry around running more than anything. That quote I started this post with? Yeah, shoes are big business for the sport of running. It asks some hard questions about the shoes. But, it did not make me a convert to barefoot running. The one thing that it did make me aware of ? The importance of listening to your body. The crazy ultra-marathoners (who run distances usually in the 50-100 mile range) all talk about how they have to listen to their body. If they aren’t feeling it, they stop. They have to constantly check in on how they are feeling – their needs (water or food) – their mentality. Doing this has kept many of them from getting a severe injury. It has told them when something is off – and if being off was going to lead to a problem further down the road.
Once I threw away my headphones, I began to notice the same things. On one long run, I felt off. Like really off. Not mentally – but physically my body was off. I stopped where I was and walked back home. I ended up going to the doctor and discovering I was fighting an infection that required antibiotics. When my form is off, I can usually tell, for example, that my back is out. Hell, I’ve been able to tell my chiropractor exactly where it has been out.
And I think that’s the big lesson I have learned while running – especially as an adult. I have to listen to my body with anything you do. I have to be able to separate out the white noise (the I don’t really want to run todays) from the real noise (that quad that’s screaming at me should likely be listened to). It’ll prevent injury. But for me, it also helped me rediscover what I enjoyed about running when I was young.
Either that, or my mind has actually gone and someone should commit me.
It’s definitely either one of those things.