by Harold Shaw
Let’s think for a minute - for the year 2020 we all probably had goal races, big plans and were going to accomplish many of them.
Basically, my goals in 2020 were to race more than I have in a long time, well as long as the old body held up to the demands of training for an October 18th super-secret race. Unfortunately, like most of you, back in March I put all those great plans, goals, or whatever you want to call them...well to be blunt I and most other runners I know threw most everything out the window when....
The Coronavirus pandemic happened.
Which largely ended many of our plans for spring racing and restarting of Strider group runs (thank you Sapan, Jordan, & Julie), where members were beginning to enjoy the camaraderie of being around our friends or meeting new friends through running again.
Unfortunately, the way things look now this pandemic has also put both the summer and possibly/probably the fall racing and schedule for any major races in jeopardy, along with Strider plans for group runs as well. This most likely means that our running will not be about preparing for racing (other than virtual races) or spending time running together anytime soon.
All those plans, goals and motivation to run - gone...so what are we supposed to do now?
Keep running of course.
Okay, enough whining about COVID 19, it is here, we are dealing with it and we have choices:
Okay, if you are reading this newsletter and are a Strider, #1 is not the answer you are looking for. I don’t know about you, but if I stopped doing the things I still can do, I would gain 20-30 pounds over the next few months and become unhealthy again. Like most of us I have worked too hard to go back to that lifestyle.
#2 is appealing to many of us, constantly training for races either believing that they will probably be canceled or turned into virtual races just doesn’t work for most of us. It will probably only result in injury or burn-out.
Unfortunately, without being too negative, I just don’t see major races happening until there is a vaccine or some miracle cure comes along from the good people over at Colby - which means no major races in 2020. However, I am hopeful that there might be some smaller local races allowed in the fall.
For me, the choice was easy #3.
Base Building - Building a good mileage base is crucial for running better - just the way it is. Putting in the miles necessary to be in shape before the training that we will be doing for races in the future is a great investment in our running - call it prep work. Especially since there is no pressure to perform or get ready for a race anytime soon, we can increase our mileage to higher levels at a healthy progression, versus the usual do too much too fast and finally get off the injured merry-go-round that many of us ride.
Weaknesses - We all have them and yes, we hate to admit it. Whether they are strength training, yoga, pre and post-run routines, improving running form, our diet, learning more about different training methods, attempting something new versus the same old same old that we always have done, looking at changes to running shoes and of course learning more about the mental side of running.
So much to do and so little time...well we have a little more time now to take a look at those weaknesses and make changes or turn them into strengths.
Staying Healthy - Running, in my opinion, does help to improve our health both physically, mentally and, from what I have read lately, probably helps improve the immune system as well. However, in these uncertain times, too much of a good thing can also be detrimental to our health. This is probably not the time to be doing Yasso 800s, 20+ mile training runs, 12x400 at mile race pace, or any of those myriads of workouts we runners do that leave us totally drained and may weaken our immune system at a time when we need it to be at its best.
Personally, I have taken the conservative approach and am attempting to limit my mileage to 25-35 miles a week, with most of the runs at the comfortable effort level, not a certain pace. Once or maybe twice a week, I might go ahead and do a comfortably hard run, but very little running at harder paces and then that is usually by accident. Also, I have limited my longer runs to 6-8 miles. Could I do more - sure, but at this point, I want to be healthy more than I want to increase my speed or mileage.
I know this does seem to conflict with my comments on base building, but if/when I decide to increase my base mileage I can do it intelligently and still be healthy.
Having Fun - How many of us take our running so seriously that we forget that for most of us running is not our day job and we need to look closer at why we run and if we need to make changes to make it a more positive part of our lives. Many of us plan, tinker, read about, study our training logs for trends, pour over graphs, charts and summaries of our recent efforts and we forget that our running is supposed to be something we enjoy...yeah fun, not yet another stressor in our lives.
Think about it, when was the last time you were out on a run where you stopped, looked around and thought to yourself “How lucky I am to be out doing this thing that I love!” Smiled a big smile, laughed out loud, then sheepishly looked around quickly to see who saw you laughing and still felt like the weight of the world has been thrown off your shoulders. If it has been a while you might want to think about what running really means to you. Running should not be another chore that we dread simply to get ready for another race - a means to an end.
Running can be so much more than that.
If you primarily run on the roads, maybe attempting some easier trails (there are several in the area), barefoot strides on grass, running at different times of the day, doing a scavenger hunt while running, stopping to take photos of odd, unusual or stunningly gorgeous scenes that you will see. There are many things that we can do while we are running to make it seem less like drudgery and more fun.
No, it does not always mean to be plugged into your music playlist either, it might be time to listen to nature’s music.
The reality is that
Runners run for many reasons and having the motivation of an upcoming race is great, although not being able to race is not the end of our running journey. Especially, when we are members of the Central Maine Striders because we are also a part of a larger running community that supports and helps each other with our running and often beyond running.
The next time you can - watch how children run. They do not run hunched over, their faces grim and focused on the ground in front of them as they gasp for air - you know like the guy in the photo below.
They run with joy, giggles and abandonment that we have forgotten in our efforts to be grown-up. Their heads are up, big grins and lots of laughter and yes, they do suddenly stop to look at the butterfly flitting around their heads or the thing crawling around on the grass. Maybe we need to lighten up and find some of that joy in our running and make running fun again.
At some point the pandemic will be under control enough so that racing and our training for those goals we have will return, but until it does we can keep running, smile more, remember to stop in the middle of a run and looking around thinking about the idea that “I get to run, versus I have to run” and yes, running can be fun.
Who knows maybe I will get to train for that super double-secret race on October 18th, but I don’t think that I will be holding my breath too long in hopes of it actually happening.
However, I do hope that we get to start up the Strider group runs as soon as we are allowed to. Although I have a feeling that those of us who are in the more at risk group for the Coronavirus will wait until things are even more calmed down.
Stay safe and be well