Friday, July 08, 2016

I’m a Runner, Not a Fighter 

Still frame capture from Flickr user TiaMichele

To make conversation at a get together where I knew only one other person, I said I had tweaked my knee running. The other person, listening politely, inquired, “Oh, you’re a runner?” I took a moment to take in both their surprise and question. I mean, I’m surprised I run. Look at me. I’ve almost run 1000 km* in the past twelve months and yet I don’t look like a guy who ran thousands of steps burning thousands of calories. My answer then was, “Well, I have two legs and I regularly lift them up and down in a running motion… but I wouldn’t say I was a ‘runner’ per se.”

Why did I give such a mockingly self-effacing answer? I guess I thought I’m just not fast enough or run far enough to call myself a runner. I usually run three to four times a week, my average distance has steadily risen over the years and my pace, while not Olympian, is pretty good for my cohort (middle-aged guys). I’m on my second pair of pricey running shoes this year (like an oil change, manufacturers recommend you replace your shoes every 500 KM - I got about 750 KM out the last pair) so yeah, I guess I am a “runner”. Not a great runner, not a fast runner but a runner all the same. Why else would I bother icing a problematic knee, stretch it out a bit and decide it’ll be fine if I just go for a bit of a run. How else to explain all of my best runs over 10 KM were the result of losing track of time and a wandering mind. Those runs are magic. They usually happen late in the day when a clear sky is shifting from blue to acid pink and purple. It happens when I have a lot on my mind. It happens when I give in to the run. When I don’t have anywhere to be but here, in the run. It happens when I’ve got a lightness of complete and utter mindlessness. It is a fugue state. There is no pace, or cadence or Max/Min heart rate, VO2 Max numbers or lap times to care about. There is just the run.

Unfortunately, I feel I’ve given up other stuff to run more. I’ve gotten back to swimming recently and realized how much I’ve missed it. Likewise I’ve only done a couple of bike rides and wondered why don’t I do this more often. The answer is pretty simple. Time and convenience. Getting a decent ride takes hours. Going for a good swim means doing it at prescribed hours on particular days. Running however, is whenever and wherever you want it. It is the ultimate on demand workout.

Maybe the truth is I don’t ever refer to myself as a cyclist, or a swimmer or a runner because of an inherent lack of confidence. I don’t obsess about any of those things but if I’m being really honest, when I bought my house (which I probably should not have) it wasn’t the skylights, which are great but need replacing, or the fire place, which I can’t use or even the location which is loud and busy, but it was close to everything to be within biking distance, it was close to the Don Trail for running and it was close to a great pool (actually close to 3 indoor pools and 3 outdoor pools).

Now that I’ve done my first race, I’ll have to admit I run and if I couldn’t, I’d miss it. For the record, here are my official race stats:
Chip Time: 49:20
pace: 4:56/km
Overall Place: 785/4827
Place in Gender: 590/1981
Place in Category: 44/156 (M45-49)

Temperature: 18°C
Humidity: 63%

785th out of 4827 is in the fastest quarter and 44 out of 156 is in the top third… let me have this, even if it is a bit of optimistic hyperbole. Again, I’m not a fast runner, but despite my hesitation, I have to admit I’ve become a runner nonetheless.

*To be precise, recent stats indicate I've run only 900 km in the last 12 months which is still almost double my previous best year, about four years ago.

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