Learning to Feel

The brain is the seat of all our possibilities and limitations as runners. The brain governs how  fast and how far we can run. If we become faster and more enduring, it is mostly because we have changed our brains or better harnessed their power. -Matt Fitzgerald, The Mind Body Method of Running by Feel.

I have not been practicing affirmations or plugging into the superhighway of knowledge about speed and endurance that  my brain holds, lately. Well. . . until Saturday. I had a good but wretchedly humid run on Friday with a friend. I spent two hours in the woods, dripping with sweat. Sweat that I could squeeze out of my shorts, like you squeeze water out of a sponge. In a word, “GROSS”. So far this season, I have had to throw out two shirts because of the sour stench that would not go away in the wash.

Saturday was different. I decided to run in such a way that I would not let myself get out of breath. I managed to run the entire two hours up and down hills at the same pace. When I felt out of breath, I would simply slow down. I tuned in to a somewhat hypnotic song. It was slow, but the beat in the background kept me moving. I played it over and over. I tuned everything else out. My run was about breathing in and out. I did not perceive the hills as difficult. I did not stop to walk them, either. I just kept focusing on my breath. I would ask myself from time to time, could you do this for 10 hours? The answer was a resounding, “YES!” My average pace was 14:39 for 2 hours and 12 minutes. This is running by feel. Running by feel is not running without a Garmin. Check out my Garmin post. I still wore my Garmin.

Why 10 hours? My race is 7 weeks away. I have 39 miles to run. I do not know exactly how long it will take, somewhere between 10-12 hours? There will be challenges. The challenges bring out the best parts of the story. There is something so exhilarating to me about taking my place at the starting line and knowing that I have all that I might need for the next 10 or so hours to run 39 miles. And, what I may be lacking will be provided every couple hours or so by persons kind enough to fill up my water bottles and fill up the m & m trays. 🙂

I’m ‘Learning to Feel’ again. In sport’s psychology,  it is called getting in the “zone” or “flow”. You become so aware of what you are doing that it becomes automatic. You become fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and enjoyment in the process of the activity. I’ll finish with this quote from sprinter Mark Richardson.

‘It’s a very strange feeling. It’s as if time slows down and you see everything so clearly. You just know that everything about your technique is spot on. It just feels so effortless; it’s almost as if you’re floating across the track. Every muscle, every fibre, every sinew is working in complete harmony and the end product is that you run fantastically well.’

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