Running Thoughts

Some random observations arising from yesterday's run...

It's amazing what a 10° difference in temperature makes. A week ago, with temps in the low 90s, I was struggling after only a couple of miles. Yesterday, I made almost five miles (I stop at 45 minutes regardless of distance) and felt good.

OK, "good" is a relative term, of course. In this case, it means "I didn't eagerly desire the comfort of death."

About half of the distance was on unpaved roads and trails that wind through the pastures around our neighborhood. Conventional wisdom tells us that running off-road is easier on one's joints, but our trails are pretty hard-packed and/or rocky, so I'm not sure there's much benefit from that respect. But the almost complete absence of traffic and the frequent appearance of wildlife are indisputably positive factors.

T-Rex, sort of
Typical West Texas wildlife.

I also have my own theory that running on uneven surfaces has physical benefits like improving coordination and strengthening joints and muscles due to the continuous changes in direction required to avoid ruts, mud (yes, we occasionally have mud), cactus, and other obstacles. 

I like running because it's a minimalist activity. Although cycling is my preferred form of outdoor exercise, the equipment requirements are steep. That's not to say that I don't have my own requirements for running gear. I'm very picky about shoes, and I'm now running in a new pair of New Balance Fresh Foam 980 trail shoes - the red, yellow, and black version (think coral snake). They look a lot faster than I am, but the main advantage besides being comfortable is that they don't pick up gravel in the soles that can scratch wood flooring after a run.

New Balance trail shoes
Mesmerizing, isn't it? IRL, the shoes don't float. Pity.

I don't wear a watch when I run, but I have the MapMyRun app going on my iPhone. It records my route and associated statistics, and I have it set up to alert me every quarter mile so I'll know why I'm feeling so bad. It will also play music from my iTunes collection if I ask it to, but I prefer the rhythm of the blood pounding in my brain in syncopation to my raspy breathing.

MapMyRun screenshot
Ran uphill a total of 30' over 5 miles. Leadville, here I come.

I did have two pleasant surprises during the run. First, there were occasional sprinkles of rain to help keep things cool, without being heavy enough to create mud (I'm not into shoe cleaning). Second, Berry Simpson rode up on his mountain bike and we chatted a bit (he's remarkably skilled at slow-motion maneuvering). I don't normally like to run with anyone else - my wife excepted - but his company was a welcome, albeit brief distraction.

Mud run
I would hate to have to clean those shoes.

Berry is one of those guys who thinks deep thoughts and wrestles with philosophical and theological issues and writes entire books while he runs. I, on the other hand, focus mainly on questions of more tangible import. You know, things like, "what are the symptoms of a heart attack?" and "would someone find my body before the coyotes?" and my theological musings are limited to making deals with God if He'll let me survive and the only things I mentally compose are addenda to my will.

Berry commented that we needed to enjoy the trails while we could because they would probably soon be developed into neighborhoods. He could be right, but the more oil wells they drill, the more reluctant developers are going to be to build houses. And my run took me within a quarter mile of two well sites, one recently drilled and one with a rig still on it.

I'm not very fast, but at least I don't run very far. I've been running for 30 years, and for much of that period, 8 minute miles were the Holy Grail of Pace. But now that I suffer from an incurable condition known as RBS (Receding Birthday Syndrome), that goal is now a foggy dream.

On the other hand, every time I set out on a run (or a ride, or even a walk), I offer a prayer of thanks for the ability to do whatever it is I can do on that particular day. I don't take my health or fitness - however diminishing it might be or become - for granted. Every step is a blessing.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Eric published on September 24, 2014 8:35 PM.

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