Journal entry 120910: Too slow?

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m embarrassed to be running so slow nowadays.

Not that I was ever very fast. In my “prime,” my best 10K was 47:00 and best marathon was 3:52, and both of those happened way back in the 1980s. Since then I’ve been getting slower every year.

But lately it’s even worse. I’m running so slow I’m afraid I’ll topple over. I’m even too slow to meditate and contemplate without losing my balance.

It traces back to 2004 when my left knee first started hurting. I eventually stopped running altogether to give it time to rest, reverting to walking every day instead. When I eventually started running again I didn’t notice how much I’d slowed down since even a slow run is faster than walking. It wasn’t until I started running races again that I realized how much my pace had disintegrated.

So about six months ago I decided I should go to the track for some speed workouts. I’m not sure if track workouts really make you faster, or if the suffering just allows you to move to the next level. Like Mario Brothers, maybe it buys you the right to move up.

You might point out that my video game references are as old as my running P.R.s, and that instead of track workouts I just need a bushier mustache and a funnier hat. Well, maybe.

After putting it off for months I finally went to the track on Monday of this week. I would’ve continued to put it off another week but before leaving for my regular Monday run I discovered my iPod had lost all of its charge. Instead of doing my six miles in silence I decided to go to the track.

My legs and knees have been so stiff I was afraid of running quarters. I decided to sprint (defined loosely) 100 meters and walk 300 meters, and just see how many laps I could go before I hurt myself.

The first 100-meter sprint was a disaster. I was peg-legged and flat-footed, my knee hurt and I couldn’t breathe. This workout won’t last long is what I told myself.

But to my surprise the 2nd 100-meters was easier than the first. And the third was easier and smoother than the second. And the fourth was even better. Instead of getting harder each time, they got easier. Who would’ve guessed that?

Unfortunately they didn’t continue to get easier or I would still be there running at the track. After the fourth one they stayed the same; but they didn’t get harder. I ran eight and then went back to the gym before I hurt something that would take a long time to heal. Now I realize I was only sprinting 100 meters, which is hardly a long distance, but it was hard work for my stiff legs just the same as if I’d done longer intervals. It felt like victory.

I remembered a quote from Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin; he wrote: “When you feel the resistance, the stall, the fear, and the pull, you know you’re on to something.”

So in the context of running I shouldn’t be too quick to back off when I feel those early pains … my legs and shins usually feel worse in the first mile than the entire rest of the run. And today, it was my first interval that was the most painful. If I’d stopped then I never would’ve felt the joy of the next seven.

However, simply doing something because it is hard or scary or painful is not enough of a reason. Again, Seth Godin wrote, “You have to determine if the route is worth the effort; if it’s not, dream bigger.”

It’s the dreaming bigger that makes the effort worth it. I would have a much easier life if I’d just gone to lunch when my iPod quit last Monday instead of going to the track, and I’ll admit I’ve made that choice more than once, but there is no hope in sitting down. In fact, very few easy choices bring hope; who wants to live a life without hope.

Well, there are probably more lessons to tell from Monday but running on the track always reduces my memory and I forget all my best ideas. Maybe I need to slow down so I’ll have more time to think.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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