It was a gesture of gratitude. My wife puts up with a lot of bike training and racing, so told her I would happily do a running race with her at some point, as my way of saying thank you. That also meant I had to do a serious running race; ie I wasn’t going to be getting away with a 5k.
That was years ago and the chip was called in just recently. There’s a half marathon in South Carolina that she had been eyeing, so she proposed that be the race we do. Sure! I was in. Forget that I hadn’t run seriously in 5 years, I was holding up my end of the deal. I dove in head first with running and immediately discovered five things I had forgotten (blocked out?).
1. Running HURTS
This isn’t rolling along the boardwalk on a beach cruiser. Running is serious work. Your entire body goes up and down constantly, pounding the pavement, with EVERY STEP. It jars you viciously! Every joint I had forgotten about 5 years ago said hello, and muscles I work every day on the bike were even angry. How can this be, I wondered. I’m in shape! I’m fit! But my quads are destroyed, my hamstrings are never going to be the same, and my calves have made normal walking virtually impossible. Ligaments, tendons, joints; nursing myself back to some level of normalcy in the days following a run is practically an anatomy lesson mixed with self-prescribed physical therapy.
2. Temperature Regulation
You get HOT running! I can tell you what I need down to five degree increments on either a mountain or road bike. But with running? All bets are off. Your pace changing even slightly can make a good running apparel choice a bad one. Not to mention if you have to stop for a minute. When you’re running, you wear significantly less clothing than if you were just standing around outside, so that makes guessing what to wear for me exactly that: a guess.
3. Form is Everything
You’re 6 miles into a hard workout, and the fatigue is setting in. The first thing that starts to go is my form. How my feet are hitting the ground, how high I’m lifting my knees, my stride length gets sloppy, etc. The fun part is, that’s when you get injured, when your form goes out the window. So that’s brutal; don’t run too long or you’ll get hurt, but run enough to improve your fitness. That’s not complicated…
4. Don’t Eat
This blows my mind. I can’t eat anything within 90 minutes of going for a run. And forget about it during the run (I should probably sort this out real quick with this looming race). The stomach just gets unsettled with all the crazy jostling, and I cramp immediately. Now, the stomach is super trainable, but I had totally forgotten how much training it needed to eat without freaking out.
5.Stretching Keeps You Walking
I’m a big believer in stretching. Yes, there are studies that show it isn’t helpful. That’s fine, go ahead and don’t stretch. When I don’t stretch, I can barely walk the day after a hard run. I look like I’ve lost 60 years off my life, literally. When I ride, I occasionally stretch afterwards and it feels fantastic, but it’s more of a “if I have time” thing. After a run, it’s a “if you want to be a normal human for the next 3 days” thing. I forgot just how important it is to staying upright.
The learning curve is in full effect, and it’s been comical. My collegiate self is underwhelmed by my running fitness, and my bike racer self is just plain embarrassed. I went out to do a 5k on Thanksgiving morning thinking “how hard can this be?” Let me tell you, I had forgotten that pain, and it was very real. I started like I would a 20 minute all-out bike effort, assuming it would feel similar. It didn’t. I felt like death 1 mile in, and that didn’t stop until 5 minutes after I finished. I can’t remember the last time I did a race and only got passed while racing. Not one time did I pass someone. That was mildly funny.
To all my running friends I say: respect. You regularly put yourselves through a brutal punishment of a sport, and for that, I salute you! With my memory sufficiently and brutally jogged, I'm somewhat excited to get out there for for a serious running race. Which I will almost certainly regret 1 mile from the finish, but its been a great challenge nonetheless!