Out and back

At around mile four of a seven-mile run commute to work yesterday, I finally started getting hungry for breakfast. My legs had just become loose and friendly, I'd hit a welcome downhill break from the steady uphill grade, and I'd gone 3 for 4 in my game of Hello Kitty (rules below). My hands were frozen inside my gloves but the rest of me was comfortable and warm, and I was cruising miles at a calm 10:35. I'd run bike path miles under bare branches, the last bones of winter; I'd run past a barrier, over a closed bridge, and through a construction area; I'd run the wide sidewalk alongside the street I typically drive to work. Traffic was light. Jimi Hendrix was singing in my ears about girls needing a new dress. The sun had risen at my back and turned the sky pale turquoise. It was a good run.

At around mile four of the slower run home that afternoon, I marveled that my legs were still moving and wondered how I'd forgotten the hills on the different, west to east route. The sidewalks of this route were closer to the immensely noisy, clotted artery of impatient traffic. My quads were clearing their throats at me. I was not grinning. But I was still moving. And it was a good run.

One important thing I learned running this split 14.1 miles: I can keep my legs moving even if they really would rather not. Want me to tell you how? 'Cause I learned a BUNCH of stuff yesterday.

  1. Socks matter. As much as I like my Mizuno ankle socks for their fit and wicking magic, I'll be wearing something a lot softer when I run Rock the Parkway at the end of the month. My SmartWool felt great in the morning; I popped up a blister in the Mizunos.

  2. Tiny form adjustments can give huge leverage. Legs getting tired? Align hips, tuck pelvis, stand tall, soften knees, tighten abs, let the core do some hard work, don't make the legs push but drop and lift. Also, listening and adjusting takes my mind off its tedious assessments of the remaining road.

  3. I will run more miles if it means I don't have to run next to a busy street. I like running through residential areas, trees, houses. Cars frazzle me. Their rhythm competes with mine and obliterates the rhythm of wind, plant life, rock, cloud, bird flight, other people's faces.

  4. I can inventory and find something that feels great even when the run isn't feeling great. On the way home yesterday, legs dully aching and senses fighting off traffic exhaust, you know what felt great? My back and shoulders. So I let my mind sink into those muscles, focused on them, let that strength fuel the engine, ran from there. Until the legs started to ease up again.

  5. If I think for a second that I can't keep moving when I clearly am still moving, what's happening is I'm asking myself if I really want to keep running or if I want to let myself stop. It's easier to keep going when I realize it's my mind that's asking to stop, not my legs.

  6. After you run a long way, it's easier on your calves if you walk downstairs backwards. (Thank you, Courtney, and thank you, Papa Craig.) Also, it's nice if you have a friend at your house to tell you to sit down and relax and read you a funny story and help you cook a tasty dinner. (Courtney again. Bless her.)

How to Play Hello Kitty
You are running along. Someone is walking or running toward you. You size them up as harmless. You wait until they get close and then you beam your most outlandish, goofiest, "ISN'T THIS GREAT!!" smile at them. Score one if they smile. Score ten if they laugh out loud.