Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


It's interesting as I reflect back on the last 8 years since I started running regularly.  I've averaged about 50 miles per week during this time, however, as with many runners, I've had highs, lows, ups and downs.  I remember vividly the first week I started running in 1995 when, as luck would have it, I ran into an elite runner and had a conversation that shaped my running life.  That runner was so smooth and fluid, I mean, just a beautiful runner.  I told him I wanted to run like him and he said it was possible (of course, I didn't say as fast as him) but I had to commit for 10 years.  I looked at him with confusion and said why 10 years . . . why so long.  He said it would take 10 years to become an efficient and seasoned runner and furthermore, I had to commit to the 3 phases in the 10 year cycle.

I asked him to continue and he explained the 3 phases:

- Phase 1 (Years 1-3), he called it the "Adaption and Hell Phase."  Now, 3 years is a long time in hell.  He said it was hell because I would suffer every injury known to a runner during this 3 year period . . . achilles tendonitis, plantar  tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, top of the foot pain, sciatic pain, back pain, calf pulls, strains, tears, and the list goes on and on.  The point was it would take 3 years for every tendon and muscle to adapt to running regularly.  The question was whether I was committed to push through this 3 years of hell.  He said 95% of runners will not commit to continuing through this painful time but if I did, the reward down the road would be great . . . little did I know how right he was.
- Phase 2 (Years 4-7), he called it the "Discovery Phase" because it was during this phase that a runner discover his/her body, researches everything in the world about running and starts to place running as one of the more important things in their lives.  This is when you join every online group, runner's club, etc., and you and running start to become one.  This is also when you try everything from barefoot running (at least for me) and you focus on every single aspect of running whether it's landing lightly, high turnover, short stride, claw back, Pose, Chi, and then there's shoes, oh my god, there's shoes.   Flexible or rigid, support or no support, heel deviation or zero drop, light or heavy, road vs. trail vs. mountain surfaces (and don't let me get started on diet).  The point here is you discover and mold yourself into a runner.  You set PR's, finish your first marathon . . . for me, the most memorable was at the age of 43, I ran my first sub 18:00 5k (17:42) . . . that was last year.  Of course, the best part for me was after Year 4, I didn't suffer another significant injury . . . nothing that stopped me from running every day . . . no pain that impacted my running (that's always the #1 goal) and that runner told me if I made it through Phase 1, that day would come.
- Phase 3 (Years 8-10), he called it the "Refinement Phase."  My friends this is where I'm at.  He said this is when you are ready to understand the subtleties of running and you make slight tweaks that make all the difference in the world.   I'm in the midst of this right now and after all these years of a short quick stride, my turnover has decreased slightly and my stride length has increased, all while landing correctly.  I know understand what the paw back is and it makes all the difference in the world especially with respect to performance, speed and efficiency.  I understand the placement of my arms, hips, etc.  I've learned to run by feel and control my paces without the aid of a Garmin watch.  After all these years, I'm finally starting to get it.  I've learned to not counsel other runners as they must go on this journey alone (of course, I answer questions if asked).

So why did I share this?  Well, just to say, anyone can do it but the question is "Are you willing to go through hell to get to heaven."  Ultimately, it's about commitment . . . remember motivation is EASY, habit is HARD . . . all champions have HABIT.


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