Jump into the Groove
I’ve managed to wrangle my routine around so nearly all of my running is currently being done first thing in the morning, and in doing that I seem to have tricked my brain into enjoying running even more than normal. I’m now looking forward to getting up, revving my engines and hitting the road, or treadmill.
It is just the perfect cobweb cleanser, the perfect start to the day.
Yoga definitely helps. I use it to warm up before I head out the door every morning, I let my caffeine fix settle as I slowly focus on waking my body up, muscle by muscle, inhale by exhale. By the time I’m done with my warmup I’m keen to get into it. As hard as running is it basically delivers one of the greatest sensations in the world: focus.
When you get into the groove everything else melts away, you get tunnel vision, the world reduces down to you and your run and the completion of that run. It feels, for that relatively brief moment, that life’s purpose is just to run.
In a grand, existential sense my 7-mile run probably doesn’t define my life’s purpose, but how common is it to feel like you know exactly what you’re doing? Or exactly what you want to be doing? Maybe I’m wrong and maybe everyone else in the world wakes up without effort and knows exactly what direction to aim their ultimate efforts in, but personally I struggle with that. In general everything is far more…messy. When I run however, everything is clear. All that matters is the run. When it’s over I snap out of it, and it’s also worth saying not every run is quite as awe-inspiring as that. Sometimes my mind is in a thousand different places and all that matters is still finishing the run, but only because I want to get it out of the way…but that’s important too.
Even when I don’t feel like running, when I can’t get into the groove, I have to keep to the routine. By keeping to that routine I seem to be falling into that rhythm, into what people sometimes call a runners high, more and more often.
A Tale of Three Brothers
It would be easy enough to imagine that most professional athletes experience that sensation on a regular basis, but it doesn’t take a lot of looking to see that might not be true.
Doing it for money doesn’t always equate with doing it for love.
Genetics don’t much care about our feelings, it would seem.
Take, for example, Last Chance U. The show is pretty much the most interaction I’ve ever had with American football, but it got me thinking about how much parents, teachers, and coaches have to do with whether or not a young athlete becomes a professional, in comparison with how much the athlete themselves really has to do with it.
Most of these stars are identified as having natural talent, whether they care much for the sport that they seemed genetically inclined towards, or not. The biggest, fastest boys in American high schools are encouraged to play and if they are genuinely big, and genuinely fast, then they stand a chance of success on the local scenes, becoming minor celebrities whilst in the throes of adolescence, and thus get fast tracked towards high profile college careers which will ultimately end in terrific success or, more likely, crushing disappointment.
And for what?
I’ve always thought that pushing youngsters into sports is a selfish act on the part of parents and coaches who failed to live out their dreams, and I always imagined that the process of forcing a child into something they are not passionate about would only cause them be burn out and fade away early in their careers. Also, are they ever going to experience the same joys that someone who practises a sport for fun does when the pressure to perform has been constantly thrust upon them since an early age?
Thankfully, a recent study which has been discussed on the New York Times has shown that young talent doesn’t need to be forced.
A recent study about the Ingrebrigsten brothers reveals that there is more than one way to rear a top-level athlete.
If you don’t know the brothers they are Henrik, Filip, and Jakob. All world-class middle-distance runners competing at the same.
Those are some fine, fine genes for sure, but they must have been defined by some equally fine training.
Throughout their formative years the three Norwegian brothers were allowed to compete in multiple sports. They were encouraged to be sporty, but never pushed. Their father coached the boys himself, and he kept them running at lower mileage than other young elite athletes working on a similar level until they were physically developed enough to withstand it. He saw the natural talent that resided in his offspring (although he was never a professional athlete himself) but he refused to rush their training, or to force their specialisation. Eventually the older brothers chose running over skiing, and soccer, and the rest has become history, with all three of the boys finding major success on the athletic circuit.
In the end, they were allowed to choose to be athletes, and hopefully because of that it feels like more than a job. Hopefully because of that they feel about running the same way many of us amateurs do. Hopefully, they are lesson to parents and coaches that there is no need to force the issue when it comes to the megastars of the coming years.
The Great Bristol Half Marathon
The biggest of the “Great” runs passed last weekend with Great Northern Run in Manchester, but Bristol is a beautiful city that will also be an absolute pleasure to run around.
The course takes runners under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and finishes in Harbourside. Along the way there’ll be 10 music points to keep motivation high.
Also keep in mind the Strava Last Mile challenge – all runners competing in the Half who manage to make their last mile their fastest will be automatically entered into a draw to win a bunch of tasty Strava prizes.
Unsurprisingly entry into the event is closed, but if you fancy competing next year keep your eye on the website here.