Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Thu, 15 Aug 2002 09:10:33 -0400

Long Run Solutions


Reviving my old book, Long Run Solution, in series of Marathon & Beyond excerpts is not an advertising ploy (see RC 425). In the unlikely event that you find a used copy, I'll earn no royalties from its sale. What I'm selling now is not the book itself but the book's ideas.

I've lifted 10 of them for use here. Think of them as I do -- as favorite paragraphs from my favorite book.

-- Man survived these thousands of years by chasing down food or running away from predators to avoid being eaten. But as he evolved, his brain devised tools that took the work out of food-gathering and self-defense. He reached the point where his tools were doing all his work. The automobile took over the work of the legs. We no longer have to chase our food or run down our enemies, but we still need to pursue health and happiness. We have to run after the good feelings and flee the demons.

-- Running is a pursuit of happiness. A few lucky people can find calm contentment sitting down. Those of us who are like hyperactive nine-year-olds won't sit and wait for happiness to come to us, so we must find it in a way which better suits our personalities -- by chasing after it. There is happiness in the pursuit -- enough of it not only to tranquilize us against the everyday tensions and anxieties of a neurotic world, but also to help correct certain types of severely disturbed behavior. Movement is strong medicine.

-- My running is fun. Not ha-ha fun, but a quieter kind of contented fun. Not fun every minute of every day, but fun in the overall effect. My running is easy and comfortable, and it feels good. Seldom is there a morning when I don't feel better in the last mile of a run that I had in the first mile. Never is there a day when I don't look forward to my run. Sometimes I don't want to go very far or fast, but I always want to GO.

-- Forget the formulas. Trust your instincts. Do what feels right. And if it doesn't feel right, do something different. The only valid test of a running method is, "Can I keep running with it?" The way to keep going is to eliminate the negatives. If you want to run tomorrow and the next day and as many days into the future as you can imagine, and if you are able to do it, you've already won.

-- Once each day, at about the same time and for about the same amount of time each day, I quietly go out of my mind. I leave my rational mind behind and spin out for at least a half-hour, usually longer. It's brain-washing in a positive sense -- in the sense of cleaning and clearing gummed-up thinking by intentionally not concentrating on any thoughts for a while. We can't stop thinking, of course, but we can stop guiding our thoughts in specific directions. Let the mind float or leap at will from one subject to another, without focusing on one or giving it greater value than another.

-- The brain is a garbage bin which collects sensory stimuli at an astounding rate. It takes [in] just about everything it's offered in the way of sights, sounds and smells. Usually we're so busy taking things in that we don't have time to process them. Running at a "meditative" pace gives us a chance to catch up. We can stand aside and watch ideas float past as if they're pieces of garbage on a conveyor belt. We can poke casually through the information, plucking out the few bits worth saving and letting the waste fall away. The recycled pieces are automatically stored for future use.

-- After meditating comes creating, which is putting meditation into action. I write right after I run because more good ideas come to me when I'm running and not thinking about writing than when I'm staring at a blank page, straining to draw out the right words. I'm not saying running will turn you into a creative genius. It won't magically put talent into your head and fingers. But it will clear away the accumulated debris which clogs up what [talent] is there.

-- To race is to take chances. It's a chance to win something that seems important or to do something that barely seems possible -- and at least an equal chance of hurting yourself or making an ass of yourself in public. We race BECAUSE of this gamble, not in spite of it.

-- Accept the fact that every run can't [set] a record. Learn to take pleasure in less than your best. That's what training is: less than your best. Ninety or more miles of every 100 have to be at less than full speed. That's the way the pool of fitness fills up. Race-type runs draw from that pool and dry it up when they come too hard, too often. A runner's first concern is keeping the stream flowing, filling the pool.

-- The challenge of running is not to aim at doing the things no one else has done, but to keep doing things anyone could do -- but most never will. It's harder sometimes to keep going back over the same ground you've covered a thousand times before than to go someplace you've never been. It's harder to get down to the little, everyday tasks than to get up for the big, special ones.

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