Monday, February 27, 2006

Running or Racing?

After the race on Saturday, our Sunday run was not quite as big as usual. Still, we had eight runners out on the trail, and eleven at coffee. (Don't forget, two of our runners are out with brand-spanking-new baby boys. Did I mention this in an earlier post? Dixie and Amy had their babies the same day, both little boys. Cool, huh?) Since I'm not sure Rob will mention it, I want to point out that Eric and Rob (who both ran the 15 miler on Saturday) met early and got in 12 on Sunday. Ruth joined them for about three. Patch, who also ran the race, pulled in another long one on Sunday, too. The best part was that Rick was back - his second run following knee surgery a month ago. I love this part of my Y Run Club job - running with the infirm and injured. Since I'm a little slower than most, and I walk every 10 minutes, anyone not feeling well or coming back (or going into) an injury runs with me. I eventually get to run with everybody in the club. Right now, it's Rick's turn! That doesn't even include my regular running buddies - though it seems that eventually everyone speeds up and passes me by. I don't mind though, lots of variety that way.

I had an interesting conversation with one of my running friends yesterday. The seminal question was: Do you have to race to be a runner? Do you have to race to run with our group? My answer is no. Running, in and of itself, is enough. I wouldn't ever, ever want someone to think that they could not join us because they don't race. We are a Running club, some of whom also race, rather than a racing club.

This same friend has decided to back off racing for a while, to quit wearing a watch, and to get back to running just for itself. I totally understand that - running just for itself is where the fun lies. Hitting the road (or trail) to feel those muscles work, the air deep in your lungs, the breeze and rain on your face...that's the essence of running. There is nothing I would love more than to ditch all my electronics and just go for a run. Silly as it is, when I can run without my phone (in a race or on the track) I feel like I'm a little bit lighter and freer. One of these days, I'll take a risk and leave the HR monitor home too, then I'll really be free.

Then there is the age old question - what does your pace have to be, to be a runner rather than a jogger? Again, I have an answer that works for me. Pace doesn't matter. When I run at an 11 or 12 minute pace, that's all I have - for my body, on that day, at that time, that is running. Jogging is when I slow down. In other words, running pace is different for each individual, and whatever their pace, when they slow down, they're jogging.

Now, about walk breaks. I'm a reformed advocate. I used to think that if I didn't run every single step of the way, then it didn't count. Once, when I was training for my second half and we were out on a long run, my buddy had to duck into the bushes. I slowed to a walk while I waited for her. When we started running again, I couldn't believe the difference in my legs! They felt almost fresh. From then on, every once in a while, I'd walk in the middle of my run. Then came that sad day when the doc told me if I wanted to keep running I needed to take regular walk breaks. Oh, I hated that, and I really fought against it. But, he was right. If I didn't give myself those breaks, my heart would act up. Now it's been three years of walk breaks. Here's something that amazes me. I start all my races slow - back of the pack. I usually pick runners off as I chug along. Then comes a walk break and they pass me. Guess what? I keep passing them, and almost always, by the end of the race I'm well ahead of them. Works for me! But back to walk breaks - I'm still running between them. Lately, I've noticed that people are calling running with walk breaks wogging. Nope. I'm running between. Running.

Running. I am a runner.


Anne said...

Woggin?! That's a new one to me. I wish I could grasp the run/walk method (at least voluntarily) but unlike you, my legs feel far from fresh when I try to resume running after a break. Maybe I just don't get it.

robtherunner said...

Good post Michelle. Of course now you're making me wonder who this runner was that you were talking to. And really we only ran 11 and then we walked, literally walked.

olga said...

Good thoughts. Runner is one who runs and feels good about it.

Donald said...

You definitely don't need to race to be a runner. As for jogging, I've never understood why some people object to that term - I use it myself a lot. My easy days are basically jogging - no big deal.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

amen, sister! My pace is what would normally be considered jogging (11 - 12 minute miles) but it's running to me. And running isn't about the races (although the races help to keep me motivated). It's about feeling my body move as an integrated whole. I've always considered running a physical expression of my emotional journey.

Thanks for the advice re: Ash's preschool. Tomorrow is his second day, and while I can't take more time off from work, Johnny will be taking him, and staying for awhile.

Sarah Elaine said...

Excellent post.

When I started running last fall, I was too ashamed to call what I did running, so I called it "plodding". Then, somewhere along the way I got some self-respect and started calling it running. I'm slow, but who cares? (We can't ALL be Rob! Bless his speedy heart...!)

craig said...

I admire anyone who has made a commitment to regular physical exercise whether they walk or run.

My legs feel heavy after a walk break but I should probably use that strategy more.

Tammy said...

Great post! I'm an all-time runner now, but when I started out, I did 5min run/ 2min walk intervals for my trainning and my marathon. When non-runners would ask me about my running, eventually the intervals would come up and they were like "Oh, you're not RUNNING the whole marathon". Wha??? Let's see you do it! So irritating. I agree with all your observations.

Steph said...

I just call it run/walking, or running.

I hate, though, that whenever I proudly tell someone I AM a triathlete, or that I just did a half marathon, I always have to qualify it with 'but I'm slow'. Gad. Gotta get over that and just celebrate that I'm doing it!