Spartan Race

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dissecting a bad run

Last weekend, I had an epiphany. I'm a running moron. I decided to do a short run on a 3.5 mile dirt loop in a local state park. And it was terrible. And I'm really glad. It made me realize that I've slowly transitioned in the way I approach my running. And the transition is good. I'm an idiot for not figuring this out earlier.

As I've explained, I'm not somebody who loves running. Runner's highs elude me, I don't use it as a social outlet, and it doesn't clear my head. I usually run because I have an objective somewhere down the line. I'm your basic medal and tech shirt junky (I swear, I can quit any time I want). I always have to have my next race scheduled so I am training for something. If I don't, it becomes all too easy to just to just tank a run and do something else.

For most of my running career, I've purposely distracted myself from what I was doing. I've day dreamed, I've listened to music, I've listened to books on tape, I've composed my own novel in my mind (it was excellent, until about mile 20, when I realized that it was the plot of several Faulkner books mashed together), I've done anything I can to entertain myself. What I haven't done is give much thought to the mechanics of what I was actually doing. But on this awful run, I actually paid attention.

About half way through the run, I realized that I was actually actively making an attempt to vivisect my dying training session. Unconsciously, I had turned off my Ipod, ceased my mental wanderings, and started taking inventory of how my body felt and what it was doing. I realized a few things. First, I've become much more of a mid-foot runner than a heel striker. My Newton Gravitas aren't conducive to dirt trail running, so i had switched back to my old Mizuno's. They may offer better traction on the dirt, but they feel awful now. The heel is waaayy too high. Second, I was over striding a lot. Third, I have a lot more control when going downhill with the above mentioned midfoot strike then with a heel strike. Fourth, there is a limit to how much fiber one should eat prior to a run. I could go on, but the important point is that rather than just bagging it, and deciding to run another day, I actually tried to figure out what was going wrong.

In retrospect, it actually began when I bought my Newtons and started running off a part of my foot other than my heel. It continued on through the Mercedes Half, and is probably why I PRed that race. I'd be willing to bet that most people figure this stuff out while they're training for their first marathon. Not being an athlete, it's taken me five marys and double digit halfs to actually monitor what I was doing. I probably just doubled my running IQ, and I'm still the equivalent of a running cro magnon. Mu.


  1. One of my favorite types of run is the nightime Vibram run, and largely for the reasons you point out here. When I run at night I usually ditch the Ipod for safety reasons, and thus I really try to hone in on my stride. Like you, I've come a long way from the hard heel striker I used to be, and it's hard to go back once you transition away from running in a fat heel!

  2. Such a great column. Really enjoyed this one. I'd love try the Newtons now.