Author Archives: robinandrew0804

About robinandrew0804

Robin Andrew is my pen name; I’m a runner, a writer, and a parent, from a small town in central Colorado. As a youngster, my biggest athletic aspiration was to not be the last person picked when teams were chosen for games. Since taking up running for stress relief (right about the time our kids entered their teen years - go figure) and fun, I’ve run fifteen marathons and dozens of other events, on both pavement and trails. This site is my way of sharing the joy and sense of accomplishment I’ve found in simply putting feet into motion, plus a few other bits and pieces of what I find interesting and worth caring about.

Breathing Has Three Sides (at least!)

A recent post encouraged runners to try out different breathing intervals; two step, four step, six step, etc., to see what works best for them at different levels of speed or intensity.

There’s nothing in The Book of Nike though, that says we have to always breathe in for the same duration as we breathe out, or go right from one to the other without a pause. Start messing with those variables and you enter the world of asymmetrical breathing – yet another chew-toy-for-the-brain, to drown out your inner couch potato.

The simplest asymmetry is a three count – in on one, pause on two, out on three – which lets the lungs mine that air for a bit longer before pushing it out, and also reduces the number of lung expansions over any given length of time, thereby saving some energy and stamina in your core. A useful tool when you want to push hard, but with more efficiency and for than breathing in/out on every two footfalls would allow.

Way more intense is a seven count: long, slow in on one/two/three, pause on four, then long slow out on five/six/seven. Keeping that up for an extended time can be a useful way to force a slower pace – and maybe trick the body into efficiency adaptations that will come in handy in other situations.

Sounds arcane and complex, I’ll admit, so why bother? Well, I’m convinced there are at least three potential benefits.

One, asymmetrical breathing gives us lots more options to match respiration to effort. Is a two-step interval too fatiguing on that gentle grade, but a four-step feels like oxygen starvation? Try a three- step and see how that fits.

Two, Our core muscles create different motions and stresses on inhaling than on exhaling, and if you breathe symmetrically, you’re always making inhale motions on the same foot/leg and exhaling stresses on the other.  Yup; symmetrical breathing can actually lead to asymmetrical fatigue and even injury. Asymmetrical breathing distributes stresses more equally – which is well worth a try if you ever find yourself with a pain or glitch on one side and not the other!

Three (and my personal favorite, though I have no scientific basis for it): Try filling your lungs with air and holding your breath, and note how long before you start to feel desperately in need of exhaling. Now, try emptying your lungs and holding there. If you’re like me, the horror movie sensation comes a lot quicker. My guess is, our bodies are hard-wired to suck in air, but not so much to push it out. ‘Full lungs good, empty lungs bad. Ugh.’  With that in mind, my tendency is to exhale harder or longer so I get as much of the old, stale, oxygen-depleted air out, and then let the body’s reflex take care of pulling in the fresh stuff.

 

These days, my sweet spot seems to be hard-out on one/two/three, and let the body inhale naturally on four/five. When I find my pace lagging on a long run, choosing to breathe that asymmetrical five-count works wonders to bring me back in range.

I’ve even found myself getting into a mode with a hard exhale, quick partial inhale, another hard exhale and then a big full inhale, all in a five count.   Difficult to describe, but whenever I fall into it, I find my pace has improved with little to no increase of effort.

 

So mix it up, chop it up, find out what works for you, and when. There’s more than two sides to breathing in and out!

Breathing – Un-simplified

Running is simple right?  Well, maybe not so much; fact is, magazines, books, websites and blogs are full of info on how to run better.

But if running isn’t as simple as it might seem, surely breathing is; absolutely every human does it all the time, without having to decide ‘OK, I’m gonna breathe now.’ Mostly, in fact, without thinking about it at all. In, out, in, out; repeat as needed ad infinitum (don’t we wish!); what’s to think about? Well, just like running, it turns out not to be so simple when you’re trying to get the most out of it.

Respiration (gotta give it a fancier name to go with the overthinking) can also be thought of as how we mine the atmosphere for the oxygen our muscles and organs need to metabolize nutrients and turn them into energy and motion. Not just leg muscles, but arm muscles to pump and help keep our balance, core muscles hold us straight and to transfer momentum and vectors of motion from one part of the body to the others (thereby keeping us head-on-top-and-feet-on-bottom), the heart to pump, the brain to daydream about how good it’s gonna feel when we finally stop.

It may feel natural and even necessary to fall into a rhythm of breathing in on one footfall, out on the next. Simple and clear. And good for a short sprint maybe, but the truth is, breathing itself is work (just like any other kind of mining), requiring repeated expansion and then compression of the chest cavity to pull air into the lungs and then force it out.  Respiring has other impacts, too; like drying out membranes and lungs during an activity that’s already causing the body to lose great amounts of moisture through perspiration and chemical reactions. As good as the old in-out may be, unless you’re hitting a really maximum level of effort, deeper and slower breathing is usually more efficient, getting more oxygen into the system relative to the amount of energy and drying that it costs.

Everyone’s different, so it’s worth experimenting. Get up to whatever pace you’re interested in, and try a mental count of one-two on the inhale, three-four on the ex, one-two in, three-four out… That leave you feeling starved? Maybe in on one and out on two-three, then in again on one… Or if you’re young with a really high VO2Max, go the other route, four and four for an eight beat cycle…(if that works, I hate you. Not.).

So be conscious of how you’re breathing. Try different frequencies and patterns, and learn to use the one that works best for you at whatever pace and intention you run. When you want to dial up the pace, dial up the frequency too, going from six beats to four, to three, and even down to two when you hit that last 100 yards to the now-I-can-stop line.

It’s that simple! (?)

Next time: asymmetrical breathing, or why this slow-and-steady runner loves to count to five.

 

Keeping Busy

When lay-persons hear about long runs – the kind that are clocked in hours rather than minutes – their first comment is often “Don’t you get bored?”  It’s a question that applies far more to us mid-pack runners than the elites because every one of our miles takes a lot longer than it would for, say Shalane Flanagan or Jim Walmsley; or even the local hot-shots. Still, whenever that question comes up, this half-their-pace-on-a-good-day slogger feels very fortunate to shoot right back and say, “Never!”

Maybe it helps that I live in a notably scenic region, but as much as looking at your surroundings can help maintain a positive vibe, it’s near-impossible to pay much attention to scenery if you want to stay on your feet!

It’s safer to fill the seconds with people watching, if they’re available. Checking out other runners or walkers to evaluate their pace, the grace of their stride, the much-nicer-than-mine clothes they’re wearing. Cyclists always rate a runner’s attention – and sometimes demand it (come on, guys; because yes, it’s always the guys who pass within arm’s reach without any warning…). Plus, the free ride they get on downhills where runners still have to ‘lift ‘em up and set ‘em down’ is enough to occupy this runner’s mind with a mix of envy or contempt for several minutes after a sighting.

Which brings up all the other technical aspects of executing a long run: keeping track of pace so you know when to push a bit more, when to pull back; noting if your pace is lagging on this slight uphill – and trying to recall if there is a downhill coming up to pay that effort back? Chalking off the miles to know how much is left, or strategizing how best to navigate that intersection coming up, the one with the overgrown rhododendron bushes making it impossible to see if there’s a car coming around the corner?

Fuel and hydration are another place to distract oneself; should I take some water soon, or suck down a gel first? Can I afford to squirt some water down the back of my neck to cool off, or will I need it all for drinking?

Then there’s listening to the body – is it worth a stop to remove that grain of sand that somehow climbed up and into my left shoe? And what is that hot spot under my right big toe – is my sock curled up and it’s gonna cause a blister? How can I adjust my stride to ease that complaining tendon in the back of my left thigh, and would it be more efficient to short stride for a while and take more steps, or to slow the rhythm and stretch out for longer strides? Maybe change to some complex asymmetrical breathing pattern that takes conscious effort to maintain?

Speaking of listening, for some there’s music and for others, there are podcasts. Personally I find the former helpful in the later stages of a big effort, and the latter too distracting (anytime I get absorbed in verbal media, I eventually wake to find my effort and pace have slacked off considerably).

And we still haven’t really gotten outside the moment; to things like going over your schedule for the rest of the day (week), fuming about some news story you read before heading out, or suddenly realizing the solution to that lingering problem in your outside life has suddenly become obvious in the middle of your run – and then hoping to heck you’ll still remember that brilliant idea once the sweating stops.

 

Who would have guessed that something as simple as running would offer so much to keep the mind busy? A Mid-Pack Runner, that’s who!

(In an upcoming post I’ll admit to another coping tool that’s less objective than the ones above, but maybe even more effective.)

No More ‘Run of the Mill’ Workouts!

It’s winter again (at least in this northern hemisphere). That wonderful time of the year when many a runner’s enthusiasm has to be dragged out of the hibernation cave by its blackened toenails. Right on schedule, magazines and websites are suggesting we learn to live with boring treadmill workouts. Well, boring is boring, and life is short, so here’s the Follow-dog’s recipe for a treadmill workout that will hold your attention.

Ingredients – one treadmill, one runner, said runner’s preferred music, one heart rate monitor (that doesn’t require your hands on the treadmill grips), one water bottle and one sweatband – of the functional type, ‘cause you’re gonna need it.

Warning: As with any exercise, you gotta do what is appropriate for your body, your fitness, your health. Don’t take my work for what you can do; make your own choices; work up to high exertion levels gradually and only when you know you can handle them. In doubt? Talk to a doctor, trainer or other professional, which I am not.

The recipe – set the mill to at least 1% incline and start slow, with the belt moving just fast enough for a running stride. (Or start at a walk and work up to a run, whatever works for you).

After one to two minutes, speed up a notch and run at that steady pace. After two minutes, speed up another notch and hold that pace. Repeat as many times as it takes to arrive at your own 5K pace and hold that for two minutes. Choose your starting pace and notches so you arrive at that 5K pace about fifteen minutes in, or however long it takes your body to be truly warmed-up and muscles fully-loose, because this is where it gets real.

After two minute at 5K pace, speed the mill up another notch (I progress mostly in 30 second/mile notches, but there’s no magic to that). Do two minutes at that pace, then throttle up another notch. Rinse and repeat…

When (not if) you reach the point where you cannot keep raising the pace without a break, hop on the rails for fifteen to thirty seconds while you throttle the mill down to a comfortable long-run pace, then hop back on for the remainder of two minutes. Watch how quickly your heart rate drops! After that rest, ramp the mill up to one notch higher than your last interval and hold that pace for two minutes, then rest and increase again. Check in with your heart rate at the end of each interval and rest to watch how it rises and falls with intensity.

When (not if) you reach a pace you can’t hold for two minutes, challenge yourself to hold it for one and a half. Then for one.

When (not if) you get to a pace you can only hold for 30 seconds, even with two minute rests between intervals, start working your way back, slowing the pace a notch for each interval, and increasing the duration back to one minute and eventually two. When you get back down paces you can easily hold for two minutes with rests between, it’s time for a cool-down as you meditate upon how much easier a given pace felt when you laddered-back to it than it felt when were first laddering-up to it.

Variation A, if your warm-weather running includes hills: once you get the pace back down to where you can hold two minute intervals, start laddering the incline up, dropping the pace when you must, till you get to such steep incline/slow pace that running is less efficient than walking.

Variation B, if your summer ambitions include trail runs with lots of vertical: do a similar ladder of intervals, but set the mill at maximum incline (15% for most) for the slow start, then as you ladder up the pace, notch the incline down so your 5K segment is as at maybe 2 or 2 1/2%.

The goal – to use the treadmill’s most maddening attribute – the ability to maintain a constant and known pace – to give yourself a continually changing challenge, while using the clock to break the time into segments too short for boredom to set in, and the heart monitor to learn about your body’s performance and give the complaining-brain something else to focus on.

“Oh the weather outside is frightful, but this treadmill’s so delightful!”

(OK, maybe that’s going too far…)

Simple is Good

A few of the reasons that otherwise-normal human beings start to run:

“Mirror, mirror on the wall…” – wait a minute; who is that person in my mirror?!

Reminiscing about that college (or high school) (or junior-high-school-J-V) sports experience

Oh, *@##**! – I just spent how much on new skis? Time to get in shape for next ski season

Oh, *@##**! – I just spent how much on airfare and hotel? Time to get in shape for this vacation

A friend asks you to keep them company while they train (my personal gateway drug)

Seeing someone you love finish an event, and seeing the expression on their face

Hearing:

…Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Glory Days’ after you spent last evening binge-watching old TV shows while eating trash-food.

…The Rolling Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ while watching a friend toe the starting line for a local 5K

…Melissa Etheridge’s ‘I Run For You’ – anytime

Seeing the video of Meb Keflezighi winning Boston 2014, then wrapped in the flag while smiling like a puppy in a pile of tennis balls

 

And once you do run that first event, thinking:

That was easier than I thought – I’m gonna do it again

That was tougher than I thought – I’m gonna do it again, but better

That totally kicked my butt – now it’s my turn to kick back!

 

But why, years and miles later, are we still running?

Because any day now, we might be forced to stop. And when that time comes, we will miss it. So as long as we can, we do (which seems like a pretty good summation of LIFE, by the way).

Not as often as someone else does. Not as far (no hundred milers for these legs!). And definitely not as fast – hence the Mid-Pack Runner label on this blog.

But we do run and we will run because mobility is a gift, breathing in fresh air is a gift, freeing our brains for a short time of all the complications and frustrations of the rest of the world is a gift, and finding we have something in common with all those younger/faster/more-graceful beings out there, is a gift.

If you run, you are A Runner. If you are A Runner, you run.

Running is simple.

Simple is Good.

And the Beat Goes On…

Plenty of runners use a GPS watch, and plenty of those offer heart-rate monitoring. As a mid-pack runner, I didn’t give it much attention for years, but lately I’ve found that, even when not using it as a primary guide for training and progress, this data offers a window into what’s going on inside our bodies as we run.

The most practical info I’ve gotten so far is about warming up. Over time I’ve noticed that if I just lace up and start running, even at a very easy pace, my heart ramps up quickly to a rate that usually comes with a full-on sprint. If I keep running, it takes quite a while to settle down to a normal cruising rate, which is fatiguing and seems like it must waste energy. If, on the other hand, I stop running for even a little while, the rate drops down quickly and when I start up again it settles right into normal cruising range. I can’t speak to the exact cause here, but what it feels like is that, to run efficiently, my body needs to adjust its internal settings and biochemical processes from what they are in lighter activity. When I jump right in, the machine is trying to put out high power while still set to ‘idle,’ and that over-work makes it take longer to reset itself. Signaling the body that an effort is coming by just a little bit of running, and then allowing it a brief pause, provides time for biology to catch up with intent

With that info, I’ve been trying a new warm-up on days when I’m aiming for my best performance. Instead of just starting slow and increasing speed as I feel more loose, I alternate a minute or two of running with a similar period of walking around, then run some more, then walk, and so on. Over ten or fifteen minutes, I work those short spurts up from very gentle to almost a sprint. None of that is enough to drain reserves or feel fatigue, but when I start the day’s real work all the internal dials and knobs are on their ‘RUN’ settings and I can put out whatever level of effort is desired at a reasonable heart rate, not the frantic over-revving I’d get from a cold-start. I used that strategy before a recent 5-K and had a really satisfying run, so I’m gonna keep at it.

Another thing I’ve noticed: as a long run goes on, my heart rate slowly goes up, even though I’m holding the same pace (or, more likely, slowing down!). In other words, the longer I run, the higher the heart rate for any given pace. Again, I’m no physiologist, so I can’t say exactly why that is, and I haven’t figured out how to make use of it, but it’s definitely interesting.

Each body is unique and so is each person’s heart rate profile. There are tables out there that say what the resting and exercising rate is likely to be for a certain age (rates generally decrease with age) but they may not apply to you. I happen to be a smallish person and my heart rates run considerably higher than the tables indicate for my age – I call it hummingbird syndrome. To get the most out of any heart rate monitoring, follow it long enough and frequently enough to have a good idea of your own individual resting range, steady-state-running range and high-exertion or maximum range.

(Besides, checking heart rate now and then is a useful way to get your mind off of how hard you’re is working and sweating!).

And the beat goes on…

What Can Go Wrong, Will. (Part I)

The New York City Marathon is one of the so-called Majors – six big events in famous locales that some runners aim to bag. Having grown up in the greater NYC area (on ‘Lawn-Guy-Land,’ as our loving offspring tell me I still pronounce it) I toyed with the idea, but not seriously, until our eldest son moved to Harlem and offered me a free bed (actually a small rectangle of floor, but hey, I expect Pheidippides slept on the ground the night before his big run…), so in late 2018 I sent in my application. The lottery for open entries was formidable, with 117,708 applications for 10,510 available slots – a 1-out-of-11 chance – but I got lucky.

I arrived at my Airbnb two days ahead (having allowed for potential winter travel delays, a lesson I learned several years ago when I had to literally run the streets of Boston to reach the expo as security was shutting the doors and volunteers packing away unclaimed bibs and packets). That left Saturday for touring with Owen and Sunday for a gentle shake-out run, a carbo load dinner and laying out my clothes and gear for the early start. I think I left the apartment at 3:30 AM, for a 10:30 wave gun, but I could be wrong, those hours are a blur…

Anyway, after a long cold wait, helped immensely by the coffee, fleece beanies, bagels and other treats TCS and Dunkin Donuts so generously provided, we set off. Which is when the ‘ugh’ started, as I discovered I’d somehow gotten my GPS set up so that instead of recording each mile as a lap and letting me know what pace I’d run it, the thing was cycling every 1.61 miles instead.

That may not seem like much, but when you’ve trained for years by pace, it’s an important tool to tell a stressed-out brain when it’s OK to maintain cruising speed, and when it’s time to suck it up and work a bit harder. Now, instead of instantly knowing I’d just completed that last mile in, say 9:26, I was faced with long division of times: quick, what’s 14 minutes and 31 seconds divided by 1.61, anybody? Don’t all raise your hands at once, I know mine’re in my lap. What’s the difference in pace between 15:11/1.61 and 14.31/1.61? Beats me, Prof, can we go to the pub now?

Another thing about NYCM, is the field size, over 50,000 runners. Even with wave starts grouped by expected pace, that means a crowded course and constant pace changes: speed up to get around someone before the slot closes, then slow down to wait for an opening to get around the next knot. Comparing my starting place with my finishing place, it appears I passed nearly 4400 runners along the way – not because I was fast, I’m not – but just because every day is a new day for every runner. In any case, with that many bodies on that much real estate, settling into a smooth efficient pace was out of the question.

About the time I was accepting those two distractions, I reached for the snack-baggie I carry on long runs, full of electrolyte capsules and a few Ibuprofen. I prefer to carry water rather than electrolyte drink; the better to wash down the gels and chews I use for fueling. Also because I’d rather pour plain H2O over my head and neck when it gets hot than Powerade or Propel!  In any case, when I reached for the baggie, I found I’d brought along an identical one, containing instead, the daily vitamins I’d counted out for the trip…so goodbye regular electrolyte hits.

The best laid plans, they say, are the most fragile (do they say that? I think they should. I’m gonna start saying it…), and at that point I lost control of pace, nutrition and incentive. Hopes of a good time were replaced by simply finishing, especially when we turned north onto First Avenue, eerily clear of its perpetual traffic snarl, and could look almost three miles straight ahead to the Bronx, and see for ourselves that up–town is not  flat-bush.

All’s well that ends well, though; I was able to finish the run and enjoy again the thrill of completing something which, for most of my life, I could never have imagined even attempting. Lessons learned? Be even more careful about checking gear the night before (maybe two different types of snack-baggie?) and think carefully before entering events with more than 1000 starters per mile: leave the broken-field running to the NFL, if you ‘re a mid-pack-runner and hope to find your ‘zone’.

BTW, there was an unexpected pay-off: that slower pace meant my legs felt better the next day than after any other marathon I’ve run. Staying in a sixth- floor walk-up to avoid NYC hotel prices? No Problem!

Thank you New York City Marathon, first responders and citizens. Thank you TCS for sponsoring a great event, and thank our lucky stars for every day we can run, no matter what goes sideways.

Cheers,

Pushing Down

The arrival of spring this year found this runner looking-forward eagerly to a long event that started up in the mountains and ended down in town. With a couple thousand feet of overall drop, I figured it was a sure formula for a fast pace and an ego-boost to start the season. Sure enough, I crushed my goal pace on the first half (which contained nearly all the downhill) but when I got to the flats…ouch! Turned out my enthusiasm had gotten the better of me and my legs were already shot. By the last few miles I could barely get my feet off the ground as I watched shufflers pass me by and ended up with the worst finish I’d had at that distance in years.

Looking back on it now, I see several things I did wrong. First off, after years of living and training in a mountain region where up and down is a fact of life, I’d taken my fitness in that regard for granted.   Ignoring the fact I’d spend half the last year living in a city where a highway overpass counts as a scenic overlook, I just assumed running all that downhill at an eager pace would still be my thing. Wrong!

Second, because that city sojourn had been at sea level and my regular home and running are all above 6000’ elevation, since my return I’d focused my training on pace work to get re-acclimatized to thin air with less oxygen. Add in the long runs needed to prepare for the event distance, and I completely ignored the kind of up and down runs that would have prepared my legs for this event.

As I mentally beat myself up for that overconfidence, I recalled that an event in which I’d DNF’d a few years ago also had a big downhill in the first half, and that time too, I’d been proud of my pace on those drops, self-image swelling as I wove my way around slower runners and watched the valley floor come rising up to greet me. There too, once we got back on the level, my legs were noodles, only that day, on top of the fatigue I discovered I had no idea how many miles were left to run, thanks to poor signage and a course that looped around and crossed-over itself like a pre-schooler’s shoelaces. Pretty sure my car was closer than the finish line, I bailed and snuck away in shame ( well, maybe just embarrassment…). So much for that earlier flash of ego!

Putting those two together, I’ve resolved to spend this winter on uphill runs and treadmills with the incline set high. And, never again to be deceived by an early downhill. It’s one thing to let it all hang out on a downslope at the end of a run ( thank you to all those race-planners who lay out their courses for a downhill finish, you let us mid-pack runners feel like heroes!). From now on I’ll read the entire elevation profile (another thank you to all the race directors who include that vital info on their web site), and take just a little help from gravity’s boost, while preserving my legs for what comes after.

Pushing downhill, I’ve discovered, is a drug best-taken in controlled doses!

Running with a Nine-year-old

“Never go on stage with a kid or a dog,” some famous actor once said ( I think it was W. C. Fields, but I’m not sure, and it’s probably a paraphrase, anyway, so who’s counting?)

The sentiment comes to mind after taking part in a local Turkey Trot which had been set up in tight back-and-forth over a grassy meadow covered by about two inches of stale snow and which attracted over 400 participants despite temperatures in the 20’s. Seeing the start line occupied by the usual lean young men (in t-shirts despite the cold), I set myself back among the ‘faster than a walk, but definitely not going to take any awards’ crowd and awaited the gun. The first mile was purely a matter of traffic control; weaving a path through runners who were already losing their initial steam, and trying not to impede those who thought the same of me, as we all hogged the thin strip of muddy grass we were carving into semi-secure footing among all that snow.

By the second mile, things had thinned out as we each found our pace, and somewhere along the way I found mine matched very closely by a slight young woman in a pink jacket, huffing along with admirable intensity.   Focusing on steady level-of-effort as the course rolled up and down around multiple hairpin turns, I found myself easily passing this youngster, and offered a heartfelt ‘way to go’ as I did. Turn-about being fair play, she passed me a little later, which was when I began to really take note. Over the next mile, we traded places several times and I began to appreciate that besides strong lungs and legs, this kid possessed a spirit that did not readily accept being left behind.

Approaching the last turn, she was just ahead of me, within easy reach if I hit the pedal for a good finish. There’s neither honor nor pleasure in passing a youngster in the final yards though, so I told myself if I did not pull past her naturally before the last hundred, I would hang back and follow her in. Around the turn, her pace slackened and she fell behind, with about two-hundred yards to the finish.

Secure in the notion I was not going to make a fool of myself competing with ‘a little kid,’ I accelerated, savoring release from the discipline of pacing (and anticipating the joy of stopping…) when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a shiny pink object not only come near, but quickly pulling ahead!

Long story short, I could not have matched that finishing sprint even if I’d wanted to, so gladly followed her across the red line spray-painted on the snow. A few minutes later, after making sure she had been joined by an adult, I made my way over and offered very sincere congratulations and encouragement to the smiling youngster and her parents.

Only when the results were posted, did I learn that the person who’d kept me honest and made sure I did my best that day was all of nine-years old.

Any day we can run is a good day; and well worth a Thanksgiving.

 

Attachment and Cost

Reading a novel recently ( Beautiful Ghosts, by Eliot Pattison – an intriguing mix of crime thriller and Taoist reflection on the culture and modern history of Tibet) I came upon a passage from the Tao that immediately made me think of running:

“The stronger the attachments, the greater the cost”

Approaching a run with a specific goal or expectation can help optimize results, whether in training (go long or go fast, intervals or consistency at a specific pace, go all out or baby that latest minor injury…) or just for health and recreation (to explore a new route, join with other runners, tick off a personal first…).  Holding those goals too tightly though, can lead to overdoing it, and that in turn can lead to injury.  Even without injury, failing to achieve a too-closely-held goal can turn an otherwise exhilarating experience discouraging and dispiriting.  Any of which can lead to less running.

Repeated and regular running is the most basic goal of a mid-pack runner, and enjoyment is the best incentive for that.  Enjoyment of the setting, of the human body’s incredible potential, of being part of the quiet family that is all runners, of putting one’s own health and well-being – fro a small period of time – ahead of the multitude of demands  which life can make…

So, set goals and monitor them, but never let them get in the way of all the other blessings of running.

Enjoy yourself!