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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Art of the Recovery Run

We tend to remember the extremes... some focus on the highs and other the lows but the day to day can easily blend into obscurity. This serves a definite purpose, of course, we'd not need or desire to remember a 2 hr conference call, or sitting in traffic for an entire day or volunteering to play nice and endure 'Sex and the City 2' with our fairer half. While the haze of the mundane is functional it can also prevent us from experiencing the majority of our running.

The Ease of the Difficult
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As we complete 20 mile, 30 mile (and longer for some of you) and we chase interval workouts like our best version of a greyhound a lasting impression results from the discomfort and the challenge. However it seems that maintenance running: easy recovery days, steady state runs or "base" mileage... can be pushed aside in our minds as somehow less important, less memorable.

When you stop to think about it, or spend a few easy running miles contemplating these lower intensity miles away from glycogen depletion or oxygen debt you might come to the conclusion that I did last night.

Drizzle Down Economics
The weather was calling for two days of dreary, stay-in-bed-with-a-book kind of drizzle and rain switching to more winter themed blustery conditions. My training called for one run of 6 miles and an off day. I was tired, worn out and ready to not do anything. Add the weather to this low motivation and you have a recipe for two days of inactivity. I contemplated what to do, saw that things were going to get worse, colder and windy the second day and made the decision to jog a bit last night. As always, the first step is the hardest.

The wall of trouble I had built in my mind was substantial.
It'll be cold, wet, windy. I'll be drenched and shivering and just uncomfortable. My shoes will be heavy and sopping and the run will be a slow drudge of human sponginess... 

The Bargain
I arrived at Brookshire Park and set out to run a flat 20+minutes out and return to the car with a rest day awaiting. Donning winter weather gear I found the conditions to be... pleasant. Overcast, late afternoon rain lay on the asphalt in small puddles. My feet pattered in the damp conditions, occasionally I leaped over a larger puddle. Upon reaching the New River I found it had overcome the low water bridge, completely impassable which meant... the big hill. Now 5 minutes into the run something wonderful had happened- I was enjoying the simple movement, the essence of the run- the very reason we all began and continue.

Patiently I plodded at slow as I could, and soon was back on the normal route with an additional 2 miles already tacked on. I hit some single track with more slow climbing, then dropped back to river level as the trail fell away from me. I spotted one runner, a family of deer and an abundance of silence. I heard my feet glide over the asphalt, the gravel, the mud, wet leaves, swollen grass fields...

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Another Perfect Mile
Reaching the final mile I was back at the river crossing... now on the opposite side the river and of the world from where I began. The trek back to a main road has only a gentle climb. I savored this last mile of running for its ease and its freedom, its complete lack of stress it quality of forget-ability caused it to be visceral. As the evening air grew heavy with fog the street lights muted and I reached the end of the run. I was realizing that while the off day will be nice (and needed), that I will also miss getting out the door... despite the weather.

I hope we all can appreciate the extraordinary moments in our everyday lives. If we take the time and invest the mind we can experience rewards beyond the surface of the mundane. We can find lasting impressions in all situations if we only get the self imposed limits of our minds out of the way.

Happy running!


  1. I often look forward to the "base" miles - or recovery's those runs where I can let my mind wander and really enjoy the movement, as you would say. When I am on the track I am numbers focused, the long runs are a mental workout...but the payoff can be found in those recovery runs, just me out getting my work in!

    Nice sticker , BTW. Sure would look good on the Snail-mobile

  2. great last sentence there "We can find lasting impressions in all situations if we only get the self imposed limits of our minds out of the way."

    and if we get rid of attachments of what or how things are then maybe they are different than what we think them to be...interesting read and food for thought.

    ps I hear the 'sex and the city' series on E! is classic...the movie part 2 is not so much :-)

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I love those moments of clarity that happen during runs, sometimes even during the "junk miles."

  4. Awesome! Sometimes I get so caught up in dreading a killer workout, I forget what I started running for in the first place. These runs are great reminders!

  5. Have you ever seen a Katherine Heigl movie? You haven't endured until you've endured one of those. Get ready to get your grimace on!

  6. I'm so glad you posted this, because it's something I need to remind myself of quite often.

    Sex and the City 2 was terrible. Two hours of my life that I will never, ever get back.


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