By Calvin W.What motivates you to run?
I don’t mean what motivates you to be a runner, but what motivates you when you’re facing a specific run?
Runners are cut from different cloths. Some are driven by internal motivators like the need to stick to a specific weekly schedule. Some are driven by external motivators like the desire to spend time with a runner friend.
I became a Wednesday night runner at JRC partly because that day fit my weekly running strategy. As for running with the store group, I did wonder if a group would keep me motivated as a relative newbie. Of course, the fact that it was a group was only part of the thinking process. I wasn’t going to keep running with any group, after all; what if I didn’t like the members? Worse, what if they didn’t like me?
And what about the running route? Then-organizer Chas said it might not be for everyone: 1 mile uphill at the end. Well, the uphill wasn’t that steep and I could dismiss other aspects of the course that I didn’t necessarily care for. The Growlers Group Run still does that route during the winter when we can’t get into Alverthorpe Park. And now I’m just used to it.
There are other factors runners consider: What’s the weather like? Some runners can accept a little rain, but a steady rain might be a no-go. (Comfort is a funny ask for someone who’s rapidly moving her or his feet for distances measured in miles. On the other hand, thunderstorms can be a real safety issue and I did cancel a recent Wednesday run under the threat of them and the visual confirmation of local storm clouds moving in.) Now, what happens if a heavy rain starts mid-run? Most runners I’ve been with will just gut it out. You still have to get back to the starting point.
Here are even more factors: Some people run to take care of their emotional health. Difficult day? Run. Others occasionally have home or work responsibilities that can’t go to someone else to manage. Run another time. Family members have grown pretty independent. Run. Nursing an injury. Maybe not.
People can only manage a finite set of variables when a decision is on the line. If the equation becomes too complex, they’ll just toss out a bunch of the lower level variables in favor of the most important ones. We do it in all aspects of life, not just running.
I’ve started my run in many a downpour when I’m in the middle of a marathon training cycle because I need the workout. Low-level variable: discomfort. Moderate-level variable: relatively short run. High-level variable: Sticking to the training plan. On the other hand, last month, when I wasn’t training, I looked out the window upon a modest rain while on the phone with a running buddy…and I bailed. I just didn’t need the run that badly and the prospect of wet shoes made me give up, even with a definitive running partner. Now if she’d twisted my arm, the scales might have tipped enough for me to give in. But she didn’t and so I didn’t. Low-level variable: getting a workout. Moderate-level variable: An available running partner. High-level variable: discomfort. Notice how discomfort figured into both of those considerations.
A few months ago, I wrote about EPBR Tania telling her kids she was going out for ice cream. Unwilling to face the ribbing she expected from them for running yet again, she used it as an excuse to join GGR secretly for a 3-miler. Low-level variable: the time it took to squeeze in a 30-minute run. Moderate-level variable: the likelihood that her kids would figure out it didn’t take an hour to get ice cream. High-level variable: the availability of other runners. High-level variable: the need to do a few more miles.
The point is that balancing multiple variables can cause a runner to make funny decisions as some jockey for position over others.
Pay some extra attention to the decisions you face, including non-running ones, and see if you agree with me.
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Text and photos: Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
The Delaware Marathon this past spring was a good race for me. For a bunch of reasons.
It took place in Wilmington on April 28 on a cloudy and cool day. It’s not a big race, particularly for one that’s been running for a few years and is so accessible. For someone like me who’s accustomed to small races—hundreds of entrants, rather than thousands—it was familiar.
My main race goals were typical for me—run negative splits, establish a new personal record, make a good social connection with a new friend.
I successfully ran the negative splits aided by the kind of confusion that can happen when so much of your energy is going toward moving your body at the expense of your mind.
I’d already planned my pacing based both on my training and on other recent marathon efforts. All that suggested I could average 8:48 min/mile (8.8 to be weird) by running the first quarter at 09:06 (9.1), then dropping 12 minutes/mile (0.2) with each quarter to finish at 8:30 (8.5). I’d never actually run a race with quite that progression but I’ve done some relatively close efforts with even- and negative-split pacing. And I’ve run a final quarter at 8:12 (8.2). Of course the trick is putting it all together in one effort.
I had 2 ways to monitor my pace—my dumb (vs. smart) digital watch together with split times on my smart phone’s lock screen and the running app Strava. The problem was that between the 2 the watch said I was going too slow and Strava said I was going too fast. Unable to process where the discrepancy lay, I paid attention to Strava and forced myself to go slower. I gave in to the conflicting information and started picking up the pace during the 2nd quarter. It was only at the ½ marathon mark that I realized Strava had my distance at 13.8 miles, instead of 13.1, which meant that I was now significantly slower than my target time and it was now past time to pick it up.
People sometimes say you can never make up time during a race. DE may have proved that point. I ran a considerably faster 3rd quarter which may have worn me out for a slower 4th quarter. I ended up running 5 minutes slower than my PR, but I still finished my 4th best marathon out of 15 with an admirable 3:54:50. I also negatively split the first 3 quarters and the first half. I ended up pacing my quarters thus, respectively: 9:36, 9:00, 8:30, and 8:48 (9.6, 9.0, 8.5, and 8.8).
I did meet my social goal. Since I’m generally picking up my pace through a race while other people are slowing down, it’s not that easy to find someone I’ll be next to long enough to have a conversation. Yeah, sure, it’s also not that easy to talk while you’re running fast, but doing training runs with a running group helps. Anyway, it does usually happen in a race, even if not in ways I expect.
Here’s how it happened in DE. At mile 20 I heard footfall approaching me from behind. Since DE hosts relay teams, I thought it could have been a fresh relay runner. As she passed, I could see she wasn’t wearing a relay bib. Her singlet said: ‘It’s my birthday! I’m 30!’ I yelled, “You’re running awesome!” She smiled and thanked me appreciatively…kept up her pace, opening up a lead with amazing speed. I had no hope of staying with her.
I never saw her finish, because she never slowed down. My wife congratulated me at the finish line (small race, right?). I told her I had to congratulate the birthday girl who she’d also seen and we found her surrounded by an entire cheer squad. “Birthday girl! You did awesome! How much did you negative split by?” Though she wasn’t even sure she did, someone who could have been a sister jumped in, “10 minutes!” It was an amazing performance that offset the disappointment (mild!) of not running a PR and but still helped me achieve my other race goals.
(Late note.) And how about this: She’s from Philadelphia and we have a common Facebook friend! I’m messaging her as I finish this post.
I did say it was a good race for me.
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Text: Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Photo: Barbara Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
By Calvin W.A month ago, I had to miss the usual Wednesday night Growlers Group Run from the store because I was in Chicago. Upon my return I learned that BD (Big Dave) had brought his 2 young’uns, Rowan (9) and Maren (7) who each ran some 3.5 miles (See “JRC Growlers Group Run Weds, 6:30 p.m. run, 5/15/2019” email and cross-posted Facebook GGR Group post).
Bless my soul, they showed up again this past Wednesday and here are some of the thoughts that issued from their presence.
To start, Dharma Running’s Eric led us in a standing loving-kindness meditation for Global Running Day. (For the month of June, Dharma Running is changing its Mindful Monday to Watchful Wednesday and joining the Growlers.) We devoted a few minutes of compassionate thoughts about people who are easy to love consecutively to people who elicit neutral emotions. Normally this metta meditation would go the next step to transferring those thoughts to people who aren’t so easy to love thereby helping to cultivate compassion everywhere, but we were going easy for the night. (Presumably we’ll go to the next step in future runs lest we become merely quasi-compassionate people.)
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