Monday, August 27, 2007


The last post was kicked off by jazz. This one is starts with some hip-hop The album is 'Talking Honkey Blues' by Buck 65, which contains the track 'Craftsmanship' It is probably about Buck 65’s attitude to hip-hop but it can apply to any activity. A key section is:

You brush it, you rag it, and voila, your work is done
And that's it. You treat each shoe like it's special
Care about your work, and be a professional
There's a right way to go about your job and a wrong one
I find this way is much better in the long run
It ain't about the dollar or trying to go fast
Unless you take pride in what you're doing, it won't last
Craftsmanship is a quality that some lack
You got to give people a reason for them to come back

When I was listening to this track this morning I started to wonder if there was any craftsmanship in running and really struggled with the concept. I could only think of three potential areas: maintaining a good training regime; running technique; avoiding injury.

Avoiding injury might seem a strange addition to the list but it’s an important skill because it involves knowing your own body. Being able to distinguish between a twinge and an injury, knowing when to press-on or back-off, and knowing the right remedial exercises, are not easy things; especially as training regime are based on breaking down muscles to rebuild them, i.e. getting to the other side of discomfort. “Listen to your body” is one of those truisms that are easy to say but very difficult to practice because there is just too much noise.

If you read the hard training thread on the Runners World web site you know that most of the contributors spend half their time on the injury bench. Something is wrong and it does not matter if you get the other two skills right and can run like the wind. If you are constantly injured you only make yourself miserable.

Technique is interesting because it is not strongly emphasised in road running. There is a strong argument to say that over the years the body has evolved a number of ways to compensate for its various imbalances and weaknesses and that if you try to alter too much you will probably damage more than you cure. There are however some common principles of good form and it is something you can recognise when you watch other runners.

Perhaps this is an aspect that needs input from an outsider. We never know how we look when we are performing an action. All the compensations our bodies have made over time have normalised things to make them feel natural. We fool ourselves into thinking that we are in balance when what we really need are outside eyes to see what is actually going on.

This leaves training regimes, which in some ways is the easiest and the most difficult skills. It is easy because there are a number of schedules that you can find in all sorts of books. It is also easy in that there is almost instant feedback – if something is not working after a couple of weeks then try something else.

However it is difficult to find the regime that suits you. More importantly it is difficult to stick to the programme and maintain consistency (well it is for me). It could be that consistency is the most important factor – but that is a character trait rather than a skill.

So I am still struggling. With my own running I cannot find any great skill. I cannot identify the craft. The only thing I have is the experience – the feeling of the moment.

Perhaps that is enough. Perhaps that is actually the great attraction of the sport. There are no great skill barriers and anybody can run and then gather their own experiences.

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