Fast Guy Problems: XX:XX

I touched upon this in a previous post, but recent events have brought this concept to the forefront of my mind. Running is a fully involving experience, as all aspects of the body must work smoothly for a good run, and perform at their peak for a fast one. Most don’t realize what they are capable of when they begin this hobby, as the body becomes more fit and efficient, with the right drive and focus, incredible increases in speed are within reach. Oddly enough, the factor that can keep those heights from being attained is your own mind.

Everyone understands what body image is, the mental picture an individual has of their own body. Often, it is not accurate, shaped by personal perception in either positive or negative ways. Body capability is similar. After years of experience with your body, you get a pretty definite idea of what you are capable of. This concept is cemented with the advent of GPS watches and phones that many carry on their runs. This allows you to see precisely where you are so it is easier to stay precisely where you planned on being. There is an inherent problem with that, for those who want to stretch their boundaries.

This seems to be especially true for those who have taken up running recently, after the smart phone boom. They can’t even consider going outside without split times and mile announcements enhanced by GPS. They know precisely how far they have gone and at what speed they need to do it at. I have heard friends delaying or canceling a run just because their phone wasn’t charged. Most of them are not competitive athletes and the time they spend worrying about their phone is time lost that could have been just enjoying the feeling of running instead.

The problem is the desire for information. Numbers are good, but at this point, especially for a casual runner, to live by mile times on the majority of the runs, let alone all of them, is a mistake. It is too much information, and creates a glass ceiling that will become harder to break even as the individual becomes stronger. Every run should be an adventure, and sometimes the best adventures are the ones without maps. You can’t explore when there is a constant urge to confirm performance and speed, ignoring the simple body signs that will give far more valuable information than any split.

I understand that most runners don’t have the drive that competitive runners do. But the vast majority that I speak to, at all paces, express a desire to improve to some degree. We all have that in common. It can become easy to fix on that pace, or pr time, XX:XX whatever it is and see it as a ceiling. Calling it the best only heightens the concept. To be more susceptible to a breakthrough, these concepts must be eliminated and the bar set higher. Instead of the XX:XX being a marker at every mile, it should be a discovery once a week. Go into the wilderness the rest of the time and run what feels comfortable, or what feels hard, as your desire or training requires. Finish, stretch, and know that you did what was necessary without a set numerical benchmark.

I just don’t like the idea of those learning about running, and in the process, learning about themselves, putting an arbitrary and unnecessary barrier on the experience. Instead of becoming more in tune with their bodies wants and needs, to constantly listen for that split and adjust pace instantly, with little regard to what could potentially be best for their body.

I do practice what I preach and have discovered what it is like to destroy mental barriers. In the last year I have crossed the line in times that I never thought possible beforehand. I was only aware of what I had achieved in the final steps of the race or after I had finished. I know that if I was aware of my splits or pace I would have backed off in fear of pushing the pace beyond my capabilities and lost the chance to achieve something that would really show my true capabilities.

What I am getting at is to let people know that it is OK to let go. To release and enjoy running for what it is. Sometimes, even most of the times, your mile pace is not relevant. What matters is getting out there and putting the miles in at a speed that feels comfortable to your body, in that moment. It may feel good to have exact stats for every run, but it is not necessary and can even have negative impact on your mood if you live too much by those numbers. At some point, you may even end up having a break out run where you hit a XX:XX you may have never thought possible.

Because the first step to making something impossible, is thinking it is.

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