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Reflections on running and races

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I was much too busy to do any running the last two days. I did a lot of thinking about running, though, especially the fact that running, like almost any enjoyable activity, can become addictive.
It may not even be the running itself that's addictive in some cases, but rather the feelings of success that comes with winning races. I hear of people who go from one race to the next without regard to recovery and they know better. This reminds me of the addictive quality of video games. You win (or at least you feel you won) and you move up to the next level. Winning or improving one's time can be all-consuming to the point where people neglect their job, their friends and their families. When running and/or racing becomes addictive it hurts everyone, the runner and people around him/her.
Now that I'm a runner I wonder at what point passion for a hobby ends and obsession or addiction starts. Are there cases where I want to discourage people from running even if I know they want me to cheer them on? Can my running a certain number of miles or my participation in races be seen as encouragement by some people to give in to their addictive behaviors in the same way that I might influence an alcoholic by drinking alcohol in front of them? Of course everyone is responsible for their own choices but I still want to encourage others to do things that are good for their health.
I feel the same about eating. If someone is normal weight but maintains their weight through abnormal eating patterns I don't want to cheer them on, I want to help them get healthier.
Some people are reluctant to start an exercise program because they associate it with pain or at least discomfort. There is a lot of language among runners that justifies that expectation. Just read a couple of race reports and there will be more talk about pain, struggle, exhaustion and fear of bonking than the joy of running, the exhilaration of feeling one's body move smoothly over the ground. Usually these race reports end on a good note, but sometimes barely so. They almost remind me more of some stories I've read of people who beat cancer (and the treatment that goes with it) than of stories of adventurers who found something beautiful they want to share with people. There are quite a few exceptions of course but I'm talking about the typical experience. There is no question that we can learn a lot from adversity in our lives, but to create that adversity ourselves, in our free time?

Maybe most runners don't enter races, maybe they just go out and enjoy nature. Some of them run because of the beneficial effect running has on weight reduction and weight maintenance. I personally use races more as markers that give me feedback on my running ability from time to time. I also enjoy seeing other people run and can learn from watching them.
I guess I'm wondering if we are truly "Born to Run", benefitting physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually from moving forward at a faster pace than walking. If we are, then it seems to me that many people who have covered a lot of miles have not learned yet what joys running has to offer. But maybe I'm just an addict in the making. emoticon

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HOUNDLOVER1 11/19/2011 12:22PM

    Thanks everyone for the comments. emoticon
I don't do a lot of races. 2 half-marathons, maybe a marathon this year and probably a couple of shorter ones. For me none of them are really races as I go at the same easy pace I use in training for first 1/2 of it and then, if I feel like it, I'll go a little faster to see what I can do. I'm also too slow to win anything anyhow so there's no temptation there at least for the next couple of years. emoticon
My favorite is trail running for sightseeing, in the same way that people go hiking for the nice views.
I'm not so sure that injuries stop people from competing enough. I've read and heard many stories of people who run for years through pain, sometimes medicated, until one day their injuries are so debilitating that they have to stop. Many stresses on the body are not visible to the eye. Joint problems can be ignored for years, a chronic rise in cortisol levels will affect the whole body and increase risks for many diseases including cardiovascular and endocrine.
I thank God that I can run but I won't let running become my God.
Happy Trails to everyone emoticon

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MOBYCARP 11/19/2011 11:53AM

    I wrestle with similar issues. I know I have a tendency to push harder, which results in burnout, fatigue, and/or injury. Walking is no problem, because time limits keep me from overdoing it; but now I'm a newly minted adult-onset runner. I need to be mindful of the fact that enough is enough, and more isn't always better. I don't know where the sweet spot is for me yet; but I envision getting to a point where I run 3 or 4 times a week, and the times/distances are fairly consistent.

I've got one 5K under my belt, and I've signed up for a 10K. At this point, I don't know whether I'm going to like organized races enough to make them a regular habit. Your cautionary tale argues that I should not attempt them every week, and perhaps no more than one a month. But I'll probably find out how many I should do by overdoing it and having to back off.

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PASTAFARIAN 11/19/2011 11:36AM

    I think you're speculating about non-existent people. I don't know anyone addicted to winning races - and I'm in a running club with 4000 people. Anyway, anyone who becomes compulsive quickly gets injured. Hence the consequences would quickly break the cycle.

Are you seriously thinking you personally are obsessed? You're neglecting important things? What's your racing schedule like?

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INTHELOOP 11/19/2011 10:04AM

    I go to "runs" for the energy of the crowd and to be a part of it all...and like you mentioned, to check my progress.
Im planning my first HM next May - I think I am addicted to the endorphins.

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PEACOCK15 11/19/2011 8:15AM

    I agree with a lot of your sentiments. I've done some races simply because of the views or what my running buddy calls the Fun Factor! There aren't too many times I get to be with my thoughts and have me time and that's what hooked me was the freedom I have when I run. I love to challenge myself and also just get out when I can. Wise words, thanks for sharing. Gonna go for a run now! Enjoy your Saturday.

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    Thanks for sharing -Good luck with staying focused and reaching your goals...

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KRISZTA11 11/19/2011 5:26AM

    I agree. Running is addictive.
I find myself running almost every day.
If weather is sunny and warm, then I run because it's ideal conditions.
If it's cold, or windy, then I run so that I can I don't miss the opportunity to adapt to winter conditions : )
So often there is no rest day.

I guess I'm on the right side: 30-45 minutes 4-5 times per week, because it is fun and makes me feel good; and it does not compromise my work and family life, and never attended a any real life races.

But indeed it is bad if running takes over and endangers health, working performance and personal relationships, and we all should beware early signs.

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DIDMIS 11/19/2011 2:47AM

    I wish I could run. I do good to walk some. Run while you can.

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Dehydration fixed - better run

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It occurred to me on the way to the gym this morning. I did not drink anything when I went to bed and I waited until well after 9 am to have a cup of tea. I did not drink very much yesterday, either, or this whole past week, because when it's cold outside I don't feel like drinking cold water and I was not home enough to make tea. I'll have to remember to bring a thermos from now on. Funny that I also gained two pounds over the last week. I think I ate instead of drinking, an old bad habit that restarts whenever the weather gets cold.
In any case, when I noticed I started drinking about 20 minutes before the beginning of my run and continued drinking throughout the run and finishing about 28 oz. of water by the end of it.
I also realized that my calves were still a little sore from ice skating two days ago.
Here are today's results:

Mile 1: 4.0 mph
Mile 2: 4.0 mph
Mile 3: 4.0 mph
Mile 4: 3.9 mph
average speed 3.98 mph
average heart rate 133 bpm

I suspect that the first two miles my body was not sufficiently hydrated yet.
I know I never would have figured this out if I had run without a heart rate monitor to notice the subtle changes.

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KKINNEA 11/16/2011 6:51PM

    It's amazing the role hydration plays!

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Another attempt

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My MAF test attempt last night failed. I don't know if my body was affected by the teeth cleaning in the morning (challenge for the immune system as more bacteria are circulating through the body) or if I was just tired, or if my body does not do very well with running in the evening which I don't usually do.
My warm-up went fine but then my first mile my heart rate reached target of 132 at only 3.9 mph. I also felt a little tired, so decided to give my body a break and try again today.
I continue to be amazed how good the feedback is I get from the heart rate monitor as far as what my body is up to that day.

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MPENNE 11/16/2011 6:51PM

    I have thought about getting a heart rate monitor, sounds like it is a good investment. Sometimes it is good to just take a little break. Hope your next run is better.


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Monday 11/14/2011 ice skating, walking, hauling hay

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We went ice skating in the morning and I was lucky enough to find a nice lady who helped me with the basics, improving my use of inside and outside edges, stops and crossovers. Whenever more advanced maneuvers don't progress it's good to go back to the basics.
We also moved the rest of the hay into the barn and I took a 40 minute walk on the treadmill. I hope to do another MAF test on the treadmill this afternoon.
I checked my resting pulse for the first time since I started the Maffetone method today and it was at 64, down from 68 a month ago.

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JIBBIE49 11/18/2011 11:59PM

    I had never heard of the Maffetone Method, so I looked up the book on Amazon.com. Looks interesting but about the opposite of what AL SEARS, M.D. has in his book "The PACE exercise program" which is 12 minutes of intense exercise in short burst & recovery. At 62, I am working on that idea as my knees wouldn't take long running. emoticon

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CGDINASIA 11/16/2011 9:50PM

    Ice skating. It's been forever since I've been on ice skates. Good report on your pulse coming down. Keep it up.

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JOAN_HEO 11/15/2011 12:54PM

    I haven't skated in forever! I used to go almost every day when I was a kid. I think I need to find a place to do that this winter.

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A very windy long run

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I woke up feeling tired and not really motivated to even get out of bed. After trying to figure out why for 15 minutes I realized that I had gone to bed after midnight for no good reason other than feeling too lazy to walk upstairs, LOL.
I also realized that I forgot to drink enough yesterday. This is much harder for me to remember in the winter when I don't feel like drinking cold water.
Because I missed my long run 2 days ago I did it today.
It was quite windy and on the way out I was almost running in place at times where I was running uphill and against the wind. On the downhill and with the wind in my back I got to find out what it feels like to run a much faster pace, very fun.
I hadn't been running in strong wind for a while and it was interesting to notice how my balance changed on the downhill. I shifted my weight further back to lean a little into the wind and not fall forward.

Total length was 7.7 miles
total running time was 1hr.52:18
average heart rate: 131 bpm
avg speed: 4.1 mph

The hardest part was having to put gloves and hat on and off multiple times which slowed me down. Overall a fun run with some sightseeing along a peaceful country road.

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MARCH_ 11/14/2011 1:56PM

    Our first snow of the year is predicted for this weekend. I'm heading outside right now with my husband to put protection around the saplings and mow one last time. Windy windy windy!

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