Before runs I have often find myself saying these words lately, “I’m going to hang back, start slower.”
The slow running doesn’t always happen. I feel good. Or I feel competitive. Or I just can’t comfortably slow down my pace. And sometimes the new comfortable pace was the fast pace two months ago.
Still, I think it is a solid mantra, especially on those longer runs. I tore up my legs more than once attempting to go too far, too fast.
The other night though, while watching the second episode of season two of AMC’s The Walking Dead and loading run paces onto my laptop from my Garmin a thought concerning my “start slow” philosophy occurred to me.
In the episode of Walking Dead the crew of humans fleeing zombies and searching for one of their lost began bemoaning ever finding said lost tribe member and praying for God to help.
Daryl Dixon, the cross-bow wielding redneck, gets flustered and exclaims, “Am I the only one Zen around here? Good Lord.” His statement reflected his certainty of outcome. No need to worry, or plea for mercy and help from God. All is good. The lost person would be found, everything would be okay. Daryl was making a stark philosophical statement in contrast to his peers hoping and praying out of fear and a position of powerlessness.
Daryl just knew. No rush, no worry, no fretting.
How does this relate to running times and a “start slower” mentality, you are probably asking right about now?
It comes down to this: Even when I start slow and run slow in my head, I really am not. What my little mantra is doing is putting me in a Zen-like mental place when I remember to practice it that prevents me from getting all tense in my head, and thus setting the blocks in place for that runner’s wall we all face at one time or another on the road. Basically, I’m not running against my own negativity.
Zen. The nature of the race. The run I am in the middle of just is. No need to push myself hard to some end point and end up praying that I finish, much less finish in an improved time. The miles will add up. The end of this one and then the beginning of the next will be there.
The step back, relax approach allows my runs to feel more fluid, less stressful. I’ve experienced fewer pains this go around in marathon training and feel comfortable moving forward. I just need to assume the slow place, or the one that is setting no specific pressure on myself beyond growing in fitness and enjoying my run, assuming all the benefits and an excellent marathon will follow.
Plus, with all this running I will have an advantage over the Walking Dead hoards should that plague ever arise.