The Stage 2 Runner
Part 2 in a series of 5 segments about the development of the distance runner
by Patrick Reed
Welcome back to this series exploring in depth the stages of becoming for the distance runner. Click here to begin at Part 1 of the series.
The distance runner who has cut her teeth on the enthusiasm and novelty of this fresh sport – and upon her own naivete — she who has been, in a sense, deluded [or nearly tricked?] into this running addiction — awakens one morning and knows without a doubt that she is a runner. She has arrived, and the wheezing has found a home. It may even be that this sudden awakening happens amidst the meillifluous cadences of some inevitable run. And thus begins the morphing of the beginner – the Wheezer – into a stage 2 strider.
Sadly, most times, the more mature iteration of this new creation has more trappings than his predecessor – both spiritual and material. It is those material distractions which threaten the pure joy of the purest sport. This so-called “Watcher” is suddenly thrust into the commercial world of the runner. From magazines – I will not name names – to shoe companies – I will not name names – to training ploys of any ilk, the stage 2 runner is susceptible to every worldly offering. And these temptations suddenly gleam and shimmer with all of the mistress’s wooings and glances. The “Watcher” is promised shoes which will cushion, protect and finesse him and a watch which will propel him – for how can he not go faster with sooo much more information!!?! The water bottles, he hears from the editors’ pulpit, will sustain him. And the arm socks and knee-high compression leggings will comfort him….. must comfort him!
The Watcher dreamily — now that he is a contented, no longer wheezing Runner — believes all of the lies and repeats them to himself daily: “Comfort is what I need. It’s tough out there. It’s a jungle… Sometimes a desert — I need these gadgets, goo and gear, tech wizardry and —-”
“But the truth is that running has nothing to do with any of this marketing magic. Running is the true ‘beautiful game.’ It is the simplest, most elegant form of athletics. It needs nothing.”
And so the runner, having just become, is in danger of falling back into the couch, the remote control glued again to his reaching palm, eyes glazing even now as I write…
Wake Up!!!! If it’s comfort you came for, run away from distance running. If it’s cushioning and primping and propelling you desire, choose again the spa! Would you speed up by adding more stuff to your chassis, you are indeed deluded. You see, the “Watcher” is so named for multiple reasons: she is likely to become a gear-head, starting with the acquisition of the new watch; she is susceptible to crashing and burning in her new-found hobby by losing balance about it — and thus she is likely to fall back to watcher – spectator. Finally, she better “Watch” out!
To shift gears a little, I have been listening to Christopher McDougall’s renowned book “Born to Run” this past week — on Audible.com as I run… Though at first I was a sceptic of the book, thinking it unbalanced in its devotion to all things barefoot, I am astonished at the data McDougall cites regarding the “stuff” of running. Take running shoe technology, for example. According to the author, the running shoe industry beginning in the 1960’s most likely created unnecessary shoes, a market for these shoes, caused injuries (a new market), worked at fixing the problems (i.e. achilles issues, plantar fasciitis, pronation, supinations, fallen arches,… you get the idea) and ultimately exacerbated most of the problems the industry purportedly set out to remedy. And to add to the insult, it appears that this whole flawed model is destined to repeat itself if something doesn’t change. If we don’t get back to the purity of the sport.
I speak with a bit of passion on this issue because I am a “beneficiary” of the years of fruitless and misguided running shoe research. I remember a pair of shoes I bought about 15 years ago — they were motion control, and somehow I had been outfitted with them in a trendy running shoe store. Within days of my proud, glitzy purchase, I developed knee problems and had to return the shoes. Once I was back in my original shoes, the problems disappeared. More recently, as I have before posted, I suffered an achilles injury which sidelined me for over a year. The culprit?? an old injury AND I had just switched shoes after years of running in the same old Pegasuses, my go-to shoe. Like the “watcher” who never has enough of the flashy newness of the new spring line of clothing and shoes, like the addicted consumer who needs stuff to adorn the other stuff purchashed last week – I was smitten by my own weaknesses and the external pressure of the experts, and paid a dear price for it. “Would you run well and injury free?” the ads still shout at us, “Get the latest technology in running shoes.” “Would you keep perfect stats about your improving training and speed, get our watch; want to look cool, buy our stuff!!” and on and on…
But the truth is that running has nothing to do with any of this marketing magic. Running is the true “beautiful game.” It is the simplest, most elegant form of athletics. It needs nothing.
The task, then, for the runner who has earned his stripes and hustles into the second stage of development, is to eschew the false promises that barrage the marketed masses and to see through the jungle of alluring offerings to the only necessary thing. And that is to run, unencumbered. The newest science says that even the carried water bottles are doing more harm than good in most cases; the goo — unnecessary, too. It is time to jettison the extra to become simply extra-ordinary yourself.
Rock on – less encumbered!
image credits: mchumor.com
Do we really need this shoe??
Below, ever more stufffffffff………..!
Reblogged this on thefabcompany and commented:
Love this blog, as a first-time-marathon-runner in training, this just made so much sense!
Guilty on most counts…. 🙂 Although I do have some stuff for safety- body recovery reasons but yes- the desire to simplify is there..I’m peaking at stage 2.
Some gear we can’t live without. Safety is good!
yikes — i think i am a watcher — i am totally enamored by the *goodies*!
And I admit it, too. I am addicted to the gear to an extent. Just trying to be “smart” in my addiction:)
I hate spending money so this was an easy one for me.
Oh my!!! Does this include all the ‘fuel’, too? Sports beans, energy bits, etc. etc.??? Also, do you run without shoes? I’m really curious about this…
Thanks for your comment, Sarah. No, I am not a barefoot runner. I am, though, becoming more and more of a purist runner in some regards. I am realizing that I can go farther, for example, on less water than I have been taught over the years. Also, that ultra-cushioned shoes likely do more harm than good. And I have also been cutting back on the intensity of my workouts, trading instead longer runs with an emphasis on better form… And as for fuel, what I am learning — like with water — is that we do not need as much as we have been being preached we need these past years. Instead of lugging all of the gels, goo and water with us, we are smarter to address our general diet overall (whole huge topic in itself) and to rely on aid stations and exercise moderation…
This is really intersting to me! I am wondering if I already am a purist? (not that I need to label myself, just curious) The only thing extra I use is my ipod for music. I run on the treadmill for now, because of the weather, however prefer the outdoors…I use no gadgets or gizmos. The shoes I have are my only splurge, simply because I broke my foot in 2010 and needed the support. Otherwise, I couldn’t care less. I have often wondered if my lack of interest in the gizmos and the ‘fuel’ out there meant I wasn’t a ‘real’ runner…however after your comment, I realize maybe I’m just the opposite! Now, I can say, I comfortable with my lack of gear! So, thank you!
Guilty here on most counts.
I agree that simple is better but like I just read on ashleyreven.wordpress.com if a new pair of shoes makes me wanna get out and run more, more power to them.
Hey I’maRunner — this is a great point: gear does often excite us about our pursuits and makes us more passionate about. I totally agree with this thinking — and am the same in my response to new stuff, too. Where I begin to draw the line, though, is when the ultra-cool shoes end up actually doing damage. I am not saying that every pair of new-fangled shoes will hurt everyone, but I am becoming a believer in simpler shoes and an emphasis on running lighter and with smoother form as a way to ward off injury.
By the way, I read that article on ashleyreven.wordpress.com and enjoyed her enthusiasm for her new running shoes. They do look sweet — and have some pretty awesome specs in regards to water resistance, lightness, etc. I suppose the debate will continue – and we will all benefit for it.
You hit the nail on the head here..
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