Friday, November 6, 2009

Yet another absurd NY Times Op-Ed about the marathon

I feel like I should mention it again, but I have always been a fan of the New York Times. But they've had a couple of marathon stories over the last two weeks that have really driven me nuts. I talked about their article questioning slow runners. Based on your comments, it sounds like you agree with me.

Now there's an opinion piece called "Running Without a Narrative". In the piece, the author predicts (incorrectly, mind you) that we won't have an American win the NY marathon this year. Does he blame in on the fact that running is a global sport and it's become incredibly competitive over the last 30 years? Nope. Does he blame it on the fact that marathons are becoming significantly more popular than they ever were before and that means that more runners become serious runners than there were 30 years ago? Nope.

He blames it on the "lack of narrative" about the competitive runners. His argument is that we don't focus on the race itself but rather on the race as an "event". He goes on to say that the media has focused on the human interest stories rather than on the professional athletes themselves. In other words, the US isn't as competitive because the media doesn't focus on our top runners.

Well, talk about flawed logic. First, our top runners don't need media coverage to run fast. Their training allows them to do that. They don't run faster or slower based on how many stories are written about them.

And do you think the competitive runners would fault the media for human interest stories to make the marathon accessible? I doubt it. If they're like the typical runner, they're happy to have as many people interested in the sport as possible. We're a very welcoming sport if you hadn't noticed, NY Times.

Why are stories written about cancer survivors who decided to run a marathon? Or someone legally blind running while being led by a seeing-eye dog? Because they're inspirational and because seeing people who persevere running is a huge motivator for other people to get out on the roads. Stories about people who have overcome adversity make the idea of running a marathon accessible to the rest of us.

We cheer for these people because they are the people that define this sport.
We cheer for these people because we had adversity in our lives and we had to break through to succeed.
We cheer for these people because they're us.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why I Run: Dissociative running

I'm a runner for a lot of reasons, the same reasons that most of you are. I had three too many slices of pizza or that I want the accomplishment of finishing a race having done my best. But just as important, if not more important, for me is the ability to think through my life when I'm running.

It's a process called dissociative running, which is a fancy way of saying that you're not consciously thinking about your pace, technique, etc.--you're not thinking about your running. Runner's World had a good article about this where it talked about why we do this and how it differs from associative running (thinking about your running as you're doing it). And the article makes the point that more competitive runners are typically associative runners while less competitive are dissociative runners. Probably true.

I'm in maintenance miles now post-marathon, so I'm trying to put in about 20 miles/week so that I can get to LA on time for law school graduation in May. So I don't need to worry about quality of the miles or pacing or any of that. Frankly, though, I don't think I ever worried about that stuff when I did have to care about it.

I've had a lot on my mind recently and I've found that my pace has quickened... significantly. I was typically in the 8:15-8:30/mile crowd for shorter (read: less than 6 miles) runs. Now I'm finding myself in the 7:45/mile pace. And yesterday, when I had a bunch of stuff on my mind that I had to work through, I was averaging about 7:30/mile for just over 6 miles. It wasn't conscious. I was just concentrating on other stuff in my mind and my body was flying down the road.

It's freeing, really. All I have to do is make sure I don't hit any potholes and that I stay away from oncoming traffic. If those two things are taken care of, then my mind can wander. And, oh does it ever.

Come to think of it, I don't think I'd still be running if I had to think about my technique all the time. That's boring to me. Very boring. But I understand why true competitive runners have to do it. It's not about the letting go. It's about each step of the race for them.

Makes me happy that I'm not a better runner.