Yes, I am a runner. Fast or slow, long and steady…. I am a runner. May be I’m in it for the shoes, maybe I’m in it for the health benefits… hell maybe I just run from brunch. But indeed, I am a runner.
It has dawned on me in this year of running that indeed there is a rhythm to the sport of lacing up ones shoes and pounding pavement or trails or treadmill or a flat surface of any kind in the pursuit of…. The pursuit.
So this past Saturday there I was with my last long run before my taper in preparation for my next race.
Yes, my sisters- in just 2.5 short weeks I will run the Vancouver Half Marathon. This is not my first 21.1 km race. I’ve been running for about 7 years now. My first half marathon was in 2007 and I’ve been running them ever since.
I do love a good half. It’s just the right distance to allow me to eat brunch without guilt while still allowing me to walk upright the following morning.
And so it dawned on me somewhere along my recent 20 or so km run that indeed there are stages to a run.
Humans love to keep track don’t we? We love to record the passage of time and the stages of life. We have stages of growth, we have stages of life and yes, even in death we have stages of grief. Indeed, one such girlfriend, Elizabeth Kubler Ross even documented such stages of grief in her world renowned work ON DEATH AND DYING.
As an aside- the book is a fabulous piece of work. I would argue it has become an iconic reference in our grief nomenclature.
So I could not help but wonder if the lessons from Kubler Ross could be applied to other stages in life…. Perhaps the stages of running?
Let’s be clear my sisters- I am in no way poking fun at grief in general or a personal grief in particular. I myself have had my fair share enough to know that once in a while a good laugh is mandatory. If you find the comparison between stages of grief and the following offensive, please accept my heart felt apologies in advance and feel free to boycott my blog for at least, shall we say, the next calendar year?
But if you are a runner or indeed you dare to try it, might I say in advance (and I’m not over-reaching) that I think you may identify with my following little rant.
THE FIVE STAGES OF RUN
STAGE 1: DENIAL
Denial usually begins the night before the run. Maybe you are eating a little too many carbohydrates, maybe not. But somewhere along the way you think to yourself…. 20km? No big deal. If you are training for an even longer distance you lull yourself into a false sense of security of some kind. There’s no way running 38km is a bad idea? I’ll be able to handle it. This kind of blind disconnect continues into the next morning and perhaps even well into the first five or six kilometers of your run. I suspect its how a mother feels when giving birth to her fourth child. As the kid is ripping through her body with no apologies and no morphine she thinks…. There is no freakin way this is going to hurt that much.
STAGE 2: ANGER
Anger in running typically manifests itself in what I like to call ATHLETIC TOURETTE’S SYNDROME. This is where I swear profusely somewhere around 12 kilometres into the run and usually while on an incline. Anger is your brain’s way of bitch slapping your body for even thinking that 3 hours or more of exercise was anything but a shitty idea. Anger can also be directed at the skinny sister in front of you who is indeed the size of your left thigh and is running (and chatting) without a care in the world. She typically has a perfect ponytail that sways back and forth, rhythmically mocking you while your hip begins to throb.
Rest assured anger can indeed be a useful stage in running. It often propels you faster on your run and is a creative outlet for all those expletives you wanted to say in your everyday life but could not. When else in your life can the rubber meet the road while you scream MOTHERFUNSHOUSE for all to hear?
Fortunately, anger tends to pass as the run progresses. It must. Runners are a pretty happy group. If anger does not pass you will likely give up running all together and take up golf. Why golf you ask? Golfing by its nature is a very angry sport.
STAGE 3: BARGAINING:
Ah, the runner loves to bargain. Half way through he run you make deals with the road and with yourself.
“I’ll run to the next bridge and then I’m done”
“I’ll eat another energy gel and then I’ll run for another 45 minutes”
“I’ll walk for 60 seconds until I can feel my left foot and then I’ll start to run again”
As for me? I bargain with retail rewards. If I finish this marathon I will buy myself a new pair of shoes. How extravagant these shoes are directly correlates to the amount of suffering I am currently feeling in this race or training run. In short? I trade my pain for something pretty. I bargain back and forth in my brain on how much I will run and nothing is for nothing. Yes, it is juvenile. But both my body and my shoe closet have benefited for some time.
Bargainers often bargain well before the run…. If I eat this chocolate torte, I will run that 10km race…. Bargainers are everywhere and they do indeed drive the sport.
STAGE 4: DEPRESSION
Most people would think running is a great cure for one’s mood. In fact in many large scale randomized trials exercise has been shown to be an excellent treatment for depression. Here’s the thing…. Somewhere after the first hour of a three hour run you realize that you are only 1/3 of the way through. Heads up? That’s where the sadness begins. Some of us cry, some of us look at our watches and wonder why is it our body can’t go any faster. Some of us just settle in to the sadness and get ready for the next stage. Which is of course….
Yes, my sisters…. Here it is. This is where you sit back and resign yourself to the fact that you are indeed a lunatic. I say sit back only figuratively of course begin stage 5 usually comes somewhere near the end of your run and by this point you can no longer feel your hips. Sitting down is not an option. Why? Not because of the will of a woman but because you physically can no longer sit down. And so like any good girlfriend with the will of a woman you just keep on running.
There you have it my sweet sisters. We are full into running season. The Sun Run is past, the Vancouver Marathon around the corner. The London Marathon safely complete and my love for Boston swells as that city begins the healing.
On this lighter note I leave you with the five stages of running that all of us go through in the pursuit of our own physical excellence as we strive to push the limits of human abilities.
As for me? I continue to push my own boundaries of fitness when the rubber meets the road. Should I fail to meet my own limits? I will always have my shoe closet to fall back on and remind me of the real pursuits of excellence.
Have a great week my sisters. Run safe and run strong.