Sunday, December 30, 2012

Running: everything is relative

No, I'm not going to write about the theory of relativity here. Sometimes, ok many times, I wish I could move my body mass faster, and ideally at the speed of light, but I'm already busy enough fighting aging and keeping improving my times. And even a percentage point is good enough!

I want to highlight one marvel of our sport: there are millions of runners around the world and everyone sets his or her own goal. From competition to pure pleasure, either running solo or as a team or in a group, either running on his own or joining a club, from racing hard to jogging, from 60-meter to no limit, from under 10 seconds sprints to multi-day challenges, from running on a track to asphalt, concrete, trails, sand, mud, snow, ice, the variety that our sport offers is endless.

You may want to run to meet people if the rest of your life is lonely. Conversely, you may want to run on your own, to take a break from overwhelming people interactions at work and want to reconnect with yourself and Mother Nature. You may run to escape an addiction, or you may become addicted with running. We can even use different words such as jogging, trotting, shuffling, crawling, cruising, pushing, flying, it is rarely just about sprinting. The only thing which defines running as opposed to walking is that you don't have to have either foot on the ground, you can indeed fly and have both feet up in the air at some point. I like this simple yet powerful fact about our sport.

Back to the title you must wonder: why is he putting the topic on the table now? What prompted this philosophical title? Two things. First, after the Turkey Trot 10K (yes, it has been a while...), I looked at the age-graded results and, while I was in second position out of 8,000 finishers which isn't bad, I was intrigued by the women in first place. She was 88 and was given a 111% for running a 1:04 10K. I was actually surprised by the 111% and, indeed, that was 20 minutes faster than the current world record for the Women 85-89 age group, wow! In running, everything is relative...  The only issue with this one was that this person was actually 40, not 88. And nothing to be bragging about for my pole position in this ranking: first the real fast guys were running their own 5K invitational race; second, this was mostly a fund-raising and family-oriented event so many were not here to compete seriously. Yet, if you feel age gives an unfair advantage to those in their 20s or 30s, it's good to know that there is an algorithm out there to level the performances (see the age-grading rules and these age-adjusted 10K times). Yes, everything is relative in running, everybody is welcome to participate to their own ability or purpose and this is a way to compare your performance with your peers. To make your running experience and achievements relative to others'.

The second reason I'm thinking about this aspect of our sport is my own experience this week. After my yearly December break to recharge both my physical and mental batteries before a new ultra season, I resumed running last Monday with an easy 16-mile run and 64 weekly mileage. While I couldn't wait any longer before getting back on my feet, resuming training is always delicate for me as I want to rush back despite Agn├Ęs' warnings. Beyond the pleasure of being out there, the opportunity to burn the extra calories that the holidays spoil us with, the eager to go for long runs as I was off this week, a pain in my right calf helped bringing me reason for ramping up more slowly. Yet, one primary reason driving my weekly mileage was to meet my 100-kilometers-a-week goal. Although I did it last year without planning for it, I made a resolution last year that I wasn't going to be locked into such a goal again and, despite the 6 weeks of forced rest in June and July to fix my broken shoulder, I was close enough to do it again, and break or fail on my sand-bagging resolution... ;-) The point is that this goal became one of the reasons and drivers for running extra miles while my body was just suggesting to go back home and rest instead. When all goes well, that's why it's so important to have some precise goals such as a particular distance, time or race in sight. Or SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Action-driven, Realistic and Time-bound (e.g. run one 50K in the next 6 months and train seriously for it).

So, given that running isn't measure in an absolute way, what was your own reasons to run this week? What were you shooting for in 2012? What are you aiming at in 2013? It's resolution time, I will share my running season plans early in January but I want to hear from you in the meantime!


Kathy McGroddy-Goetz said...


Great post! I love the age-graded calculators, actually ran an adjusted PR in my half marathon in November even though it was 7 min slower than my true time half PR. It's another good way for us to continue the M in smart, measuring how we are doing both in real time and in adjusted time, and seeing continued improvement is very gratifying!

For me, after finishing the half (Raleigh) in November feeling tremendous and wanting to run again the next day, I have decided to run my first marathon and am registered for the New Jersey marathon on May 5. I am lucky enough to have convinced a few of my friends to join me and am looking forward to ramping up the miles. My other 2013 goal is to do a half ironman triathlon - I did the swim and bike portions of Toughman last September and had a blast - will plan to do the entire thing this year (unless I do Timberman instead, in August).

Hope you are doing well - one last question - have you ever tried the Hoka One One shoes? I bought a pair this summer and attribute how well my legs have felt this fall to using them (in rotation with Newtowns and Nikes). They are kind of odd with so much cushioning but only have a 4mm drop so do promote midfoot running. I just ordered my second pair and am becoming a real believer.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2013,

Jean Pommier said...

Thank you for leaving a comment and sharing your amazing goals for 2013, Kathy! Here is to your mileage increase. Glad to see you have support through a network of friends in particular.

Re Hoka: no, I'm sponsored by Brooks, and I've rather chosen to follow the minimalist trend anyway (e.g. Brooks' PureProject). It was very interesting to see Hoka (a company from the city my mother in law lives in France) coming up with so much extra cushioning at the same time barefoot running went viral.

All the best for a great 2013!