Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What did I learn?

On Sunday I went for my first long run for ages. Through the woods of Ashridge, amongst the bluebells with the leaves scattering light in speckled patterns – and I felt nothing, not a twinge, not the slightest tenderness. My injury and rehabilitation is over and it is time to consolidate the lessons.

1. First and most obviously – running is experience. Thinking or talking about it is no substitute because you have to feel your immediate experience.

2. Suffering an injury makes you painfully aware of the consequences of your own actions. Whilst I had previously paid lip service to the idea of being careful and trying to run injury free, I did not fully feel it and did not really pay full attention. I had previously been able to experiment with different patterns of training without adverse consequences and so I thought my body was stronger than it actually was. I have been stripped of that illusion and know I have to always keep hold of that sense of frailty.

3. I have identified my area of weakness and that gives me something to work on - a way to improve.

4. There is nothing so damaging to your running fitness as not running – obvious but true - so taking unnecessary risks is stupid. Gradual progress is optimum progress, however I know I am prone to stupidity and need to constantly remember this.

5. Running is not the only exercise. By working on other parts of my body I actually feel stronger and these new routines need to be incorporated into my ongoing pattern. In particular I have been working on core muscles and shoulders. I have a theory that you need strength there to maintain form over the long distance.

6. All the exercises in the gym just feel like preparation - they are not an end in themselves, whereas running is fully sustaining.

However all that is mere mechanics the most important lesson is that running is incredibly important to my sense of being. It also makes me easier to live with. I found this out at a dinnertime conversation on the subject of shop names when I said my favourite was ‘Run and Become’. “Become what?” Asked my younger daughter. “Whatever you can be,” I said “It ‘s a path not a clear objective” “Yes” said my wife “you are far more content and relaxed when you are running”.

I don’t want to become a grumpy old man.

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