Thursday, July 31, 2014


On a good run, it's easy to believe we (humans) evolved to run. I've been running more this summer than most. On Sunday I ran about 20 km (12 miles), the longest I've run for years. It wasn't a race or an event, just stretching myself. It felt good. I was a little tired afterward, but otherwise suffered no ill effects.

I've never considered myself a hard core runner, but I've run off and on, more or less, pretty much as long as I can remember. Never competitively. Mostly by myself. Sometimes to train for one of our climbing expeditions. Often just to stay fit and feel good. These days I don't worry too much about distance or speed. I've got no one to compete with. I don't carry any gadgets - no phone, no ipod, no gps, not even a watch. So I don't have much idea how fast I've gone. I usually have a rough idea of distance from knowledge of the routes I run.

When I was younger I had a rather cavalier attitude towards my body. It was there to serve me. I didn't worry about my knees or hips or feet. I used to run in my climbing boots. Not lightweight modern hiking boots that are more akin to running shoes, these were classic heavy leather boots with thick stiff vibram soles. My theory was that I was training to climb and when I was climbing I'd be wearing boots, so that's what I should train in. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best idea :-)

My longest run was in my twenties, an attempt to run a marathon distance (just on my own) that I quit after 30 km. It was the end of a summer where I'd run harder and longer than ever before and I paid the price in knees and hips. I remember hobbling back and forth to work wondering why I was doing this to myself.

After that I continued to run but not so hard or so long. I believed my knees and hips just weren't up to it. When Shelley trained for a marathon I didn't join her, thinking it was too much for my joints. I did do quite a few adventure races but they seldom involved straight running for long distances.

But gradually I've realized that there may be nothing especially wrong with my joints. It may just be that I have to have a little more respect for my body. These days I only run every other day and only ramp up my distance gradually. If things start to hurt I back off. As a result I've found that I can once again run quite long and reasonably hard (for me) without crippling myself.

Not that my body is anything like perfect. Recently when I bought new running shoes the sales person asked if I had any pain in my knees or hips or ankles and I said no, not currently. He seemed somewhat surprised and proceeded to tell me that I walked a little funny, one knee cap appeared to be out of place, my legs weren't straight, and one foot was almost a size bigger than the other. I shrugged. You don't choose the body you're in, you just work with it to do what you can. I figure mine has done pretty well for me, all things considered.

Recommended reading:

Why We Run - Bernd Heinrich

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami (my review)

Running With the Pack - Mark Rowlands

Born to Run - Chris McDougall

1 comment:

  1. Andrew, interesting to read this because I, too, am running this summer. However, I did decide that I wanted to try to do a flat half-marathon in Creston in mid-September. My longest run so far has been 16 km. It isn't killing me (yet), I don't think. I do shorter runs on the other days and I'm running 4 times per week this summer. I get up early because it's been darn hot for all of July! I don't really compete with anyone but myself. This was a challenge I set for myself and I have yet to register for the run because if it is still really hot I won't go. I'm liking the challenge and so far, my body feels better. Keep up the running and thanks for the suggested titles. I've only read Born to Run.