Friday, August 31, 2012

Finding My Inner Runner

Diane Phillips is the Technical Services Library at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin this week.

I became a runner about two years ago. I didn’t start out running but worked my way up to it. I didn’t realize how hard it would be for me to run. I see so many people, young and old, out on the streets running; and they make it look effortless. For me, it is not. It’s work – hard work. I didn’t just get off the couch and run. I started out by walking. I walked anywhere between eight to twelve miles a week. Doing that was no problem. I enjoyed it. I listened to music on my iPod, and the time seemed to go by really quickly. The satisfaction was short lived. I needed to do something more challenging. I started to run. I would walk for five minutes and then run for one minute, walk for another five minutes and run for another minute and so on. During each workout, I would increase the amount of time I ran and decrease the amount of time I walked. Before I knew it, I was running for twenty minutes straight. I felt exhausted but extremely proud of myself. Although that was quite an achievement for me, I needed to up the ante and make things more challenging. I wanted to run faster. I was running at a pace of about an eleven-minute mile. Not bad but at that rate, I wasn’t going to win any Olympic medals -- not that I needed one, but I had to get faster.

The desire to run faster isn’t just a personal goal but a goal set for me by my karate program. I’m working my way through the ranks to eventually become a black belt. One of the requirements is to run three miles in twenty-four minutes (or less). I wasn’t going to get there by running at an eleven-minute mile. I needed to find ways to increase my speed and was having a hard time doing that by myself. I joined a running club that’s led by a high school cross-country track team coach who is also a fellow karate student. We run once a week with a specific training plan for each session. Some days, we run for an allotted time period at various paces while other times, we’re chasing each other up hills to increase speed and stamina. Running with a group and having a coach has helped me to get faster. My pace quickened to my running a nine-minute mile. Not quite good enough for my goal though. I had to do more. I started to do some research at the library to find books on running. I knew there were resources out there for training programs and various styles of running as well as narratives by experienced runners. I enjoyed reading the following books, as some were inspiring while others were instructional:

• Be a Better Runner: Real world, scientifically-proven training techniques that will dramatically improve your speed, endurance, and injury resistance by Sally Edwards

• Born to run: a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen by Christopher McDougall

• ChiRunning : a revolutionary approach to effortless, injury-free running by Danny and Katherine Dreyer

• Mental Training for Runners: how to stay motivated by Jeff Galloway

• Natural Running: the simple path to stronger, healthier running by Danny Abshire

• Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster: become a faster, stronger runner with the revolutionary 3-run-a-week training program (Revised) by Bill Pierce

• Running Well by Sam Murphy

• Running with the Kenyans: passion, adventure, and the secrets of the fastest people on earth by Adharanand Finn

• Running with the Mind of Meditation: lessons for training body and mind by Sakyong Mipham

There are many more resources at the Morrill Memorial Library and throughout the Minuteman Network to get you started, help you to train, and keep you motivated. I keep reading and running, and I'm finding inspiration in reading about the mind/body connection and meditating while running. For me, running is more than just the physical aspect of running the laps on the track or getting the miles in on the road. I begin each run with a goal in mind of what I want to achieve that day. It may be a long recuperative run or a short speed workout. Two training techniques -- speed intervals and hill repeats --really called out to me. With speed intervals, I run faster than my desired race pace for a set time, at which point I slow down to a jogging pace or even a walk for a short rest period and repeat. For the hill repeats, I run up a hill at my race pace and jog or walk down and repeat the process for a set number of times. These are hard workouts but I’ve found it to be worth the time and effort. In taking inspiration from these resources and by implementing just a couple of new techniques, I find I’m getting closer to my goal, clocking in at an eight-minute mile just this morning.