Some Reflections on Running

Like everyone else, now that we’re sequestered in various ways to ward off the spread of coronavirus, I’ve had time to do some extra reading.  This led me to pull Tim Noakes’s Lore of Running off the shelf, a past birthday present.  Many of you know this 930-page tome, first released in 1985 and last updated in 2002 (4th Edition).  It’s an amazing compilation, in many ways ahead of its time or at least on the cusp of it.  Much has been gleaned in the last 18 years, but little contradicts what Noakes presented in LOR.  It’s unfortunate Noakes has become known for his more recent outspoken advocacy of the low carb-high fat diet.  If you Google him, almost all the YouTube links relate to this.  Yet, Noakes’ understanding of running science is broad and deep.  And this is why LOR is such a valuable resource and good read.

In the Introduction, Noakes talks about his own love and connection to running and entitles that section Some Reflections on Running.  Hence the title of this post.  He notes seven things that capture what running has meant to him.  This resonated with me and led to listing his points and adding my own thoughts.

  • Running helps Noakes understand himself and experience privacy and solitude. Beneath his public persona, Noakes shares he is an introvert.  Running is a time he can be by himself.  He suggests when we hit fatigue and push through it, we connect with our inner selves.  We may be racing with others also plumbing those depths but it’s essentially a solo venture.  I know that feeling.  We all do!  Also, I have found I do ~90% of my training alone.  It’s enough to see others on the trail, path, or road and acknowledge them in passing.  Unlike some, I do not seek out extended conversations on training runs.  It’s a good time for reflection. 
  • Running has given Noakes incentive to take care of his body, develop self-discipline, and prepare for races without taking shortcuts.  He was not an elite runner but a serious competitor, nonetheless.  I have not found shortcuts either and am OK with that.  I see that as the point of training — focusing on the process ahead of results.
  • Running helped him set goals, achieve them, and gain confidence to succeed in other areas of life.  Noakes says he’s always looking for new challenges and peaks to climb. Each January, I create a racing plan for the upcoming year along with some ambitious target times. I meet some, fall short on most. But keep trying!  And that approach extends well beyond running.
  • Running has taught him humility and an ability to accept limitations without envy for better athletes.  I have always viewed competition as something “with” others, not “against” them.  We push each other to higher levels of performance than otherwise possible.  I can’t think of any top runners who gloat about their triumphs.  I really love that about running! 
  • Noakes sees honesty as an outgrowth of his running.  One beauty of running is that results speak for themselves.  In a particular workout or year-over-year.  With respect to aging, I know it’s happening though I may not want to believe it.  I have logs of races from the past 25 years — the truth is right there!
  • Running has given Noakes time to relax and create, to work out mental hassles and dissect complex problems outside of running.  He suggests creativity is often not the result of hard work; rather the space to allow our minds to roam freely.  I expect we have all found this – it’s one reason I avoid, for the most part, listening to music when running.  This is a fertile time for the subconscious.  I ran almost exclusively in the early morning and usually find after a run I’m ready to dig into work.
  • Running tells Noakes not to stop.  He quotes Paavo Nurmi (now there’s a story!): “You must move, otherwise you are bound for the grave” and Arthur Newton: “You never stay put on any stage; either you advance or slip back.”  At root, this is simplistic, maybe too much.  We are going to slip back physically, but we can advance with age-grading. As Nurmi suggests, we must move!

We can each take Noakes’ seven reflections and personalize them.  I expect we’d find more similarities than differences among runners.  That’s one thing that makes us a community, a group loosely bound by our love for and appreciation of the sport – our own Lore of Running.  

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