Day #38: Run the Hard Parts Easy…

…and the easy parts hard…

Some days, we wake up on the right side of the bed. We eagerly race to the coffee maker to draw a strong pour of liquid gold, and we stride for our running shoes. Laced up, the last sip of coffee just tasted, we are out the door, eager to invest in the training effect – that certainty that hard work pays off and that today’s effort deposited will mature into speed come race day and fitness level come tomorrow.

On such days as these, I encourage you to hammer a couple of your miles – to ‘let her roll’ and to drink deeply of the elixir of effortless speed. These are, after all, the days we dream of: autumn leaves gently falling to the ground just as we race by to kick up more, the perfect dram of last night’s soft rain just polishing the pavement, and the cool temperature hinting at winter, still 6 weeks away. This is why we run.

But there is another kind of day. These are days like my morning yesterday: after two days of skiing and a day of skiing and travel ahead, I faced the necessity of completing my run first thing in the a.m. Problem is, I had just returned from last night’s run only hours before (in the dark, in the cold, at 8,000 ft., and after – did I mention?? – 2 days of thigh-busting skiing.) Not that I am complaining…

Still, the luxury of skiing was having its toll and I was all of the sudden reevaluating my running streak. At first I reasoned that I should just take the day off. It would be healthy, the doubting voices in my head argued, to have the discipline to take a day off, to prove to myself that the streak is not the main thing, but rather the spirit of the streak. That argument held sway for a couple of minutes as I thought about rolling over in my sleeping bag and slipping back to sleep. But, before long, I had refuted that silly argument: the spirit of the matter may be foremost, but without a run there was no ‘matter’ to have spirit. I needed to run. But then came the question of “How far?” I thought about the US Streak Runners Association. They define a streak as any run of at least one mile in distance. That I could do.

And that I would do. Still, my blog is called “Run5kaday.” That unaccounted for 3.4k may prove a hindrance….

Fortunately, when I actually got out on the roads and could see the Sierra Nevadas standing broadly before me, 5k came and went with ease. And to think I had been faltering.

All this is an effort to say: on those wonderful days when you can’t help but run, lay down a couple of great and fast miles. Take advantage of your energy, enthusiasm and spirit – and bust out some great work. But on the days when you are questioning the why’s of your initial resolve and when you are bonking – or slipping and careening on poor footing – when it is hard, run easy. In other words, run the easy parts hard and the hard parts easy.

A quick anecdote and I will let you go – and please indulge me if you have already heard this on the second episode of “A Runner’s Podcast.” I can remember several occasions when high school runners I have coached, while surveying a course before a race, have remarked (upon looking at a muddy bog at the base of a challenging hill), “Coach, how are we supposed to race and roll through this mud pit?! The footing looks impossible!” My response: ”We are going to back off the pace here, cut down our strides, find the path of least resistance, and run this hard part easy. Then, when the footing is good, the terrain favorable and we are able to be at our best, we hit it. Then, we run the easy parts hard.”

Next time you face a “hard part,” back off the pace, cut your stride down, and just get through. Then, when by some chance luck or stroke of providence you wake up on the right side of the bed – and the world is an easy downhill charge in every direction – hit it!

Until tomorrow,

~Coach Reed