Fitness (His Edition)
When you open your eyes there are lessons to be learnt in almost every one of life’s daily endeavours. In modern life we seldom take a moment to look up from our phones or tune out of our own incessant inner monologue. It’s a shame because when we do we free up our minds to the potential for new experiences and learnings.
It happened to me recently while out on a 48km training run. It was part of a weekend-long Comrades training camp hosted by my running club, Randburg Harriers. It’s not a race, merely a formalised training run with support on the route in the form of water tables and feed stations. There was no official start time. Runners could set off whenever they wanted, following a specified route over each of the three days. It meant those who started later in the morning could conceivably catch up and run with various groups of people. It’s certainly a unique concept that was extremely well supported, particularly on the day in question – day one’s 48km assault, which took in many of Jo’burg’s steepest climbs.
As it was not a race my mind frame was entirely different. I was relaxed and not inwardly focused on my pacing, my breathing, my energy reserves or the sensation in my leg muscles, as is normally the case when I’m racing the clock, or other athletes. This gave me the opportunity to relax and take it all in. In doing so, not only did the kilometres tick by a lot quicker while my mind was held captive by the sights and sounds I was experiencing and taking in, but it opened up my eyes to a number of important lessons. You also have a lot of time to digest what you see and hear when you’re out on the road for over four hours.
Sure, there weren’t any earth-shattering revelations that will forever change the world of endurance sport, but it certainly showed me the value of tuning back into the world around us. As examples, it struck me how few of the runners I passed seemed to be running with any purpose or plan, other than to log the miles. These long runs are the best times to test your running gear, try new nutritional strategies, or test your fitness to some degree. For instance, my plan was to start slow, building up my pace every 20km, and then finish the last 8km at target Comrades pace. I also worked on my hill running technique, particularly on the hills later in the run when I was fatigued and therefore more prone to sacrifice form. This meant focusing and pushing on the climbs. In doing so I passed numerous runners, most of whom were walking up the steepest sections. That led to my next realisation – how can you expect to run up a hill during a race when you don’t do so in training? The same applies to pace. You can’t expect to train at 06:00/km pace all the time and then try to run a marathon at 05:00/km pace to set a new PB. The body doesn’t work like that.
I also learnt a bit more about myself; things that are often missed when you’re trying to survive the hurt and pain of all-out race efforts. For instance, I remembered the importance of embracing the journey and not fixating on the finish line. It makes the experience more enjoyable and rewarding. By tuning out of my own head I also got to meet and chat with many runners, which is not something I actively do during races, and I realised I’m poorer for it. The whole experience also reminded me that you can derive immense joy and fulfilment in the practice of attaining your goals, not only in the achievement thereof. Yes, all of these life lessons were dispensed in a single run. Granted, it was over four hours which gives a person a lot of time to think, mull and digest info, but just imagine what else you can learn or come to realise by simply taking 20 or 30 minutes out of your day to tune back into the world around you, wherever you are, be it the gym, while stuck in traffic or out on the road. Who knows, you may just learn something new.
Enjoy issue 23.