Sunday, February 24, 2013
Getting Up To Speed
There's a myth that runners are somehow full of a mystical runny substance which makes them faster than the rest of the planet, call it, runundium. There are possibly a few people with some supernatural count of this mysterious substance. But, unlike magical abilities, trust funds, and eyeballs destined to need glasses, running is not something that was predestined. Rather, like great piano playing, driving in the Indianapolis 500, and Bayesian modeling, running is a skill, one to be learned and applied. Even after all the miles that I've put in, it's a fact that most people will run faster than me over short distances. I'd make an absolutely miserable purse thief. So, what separates me from the pack? Despite being barely able to keep up with the average second grader in a game of tag, I know how to keep running. Most people will beat me to the corner, fewer can beat me around the block, and, without experience, very few can actually beat me over a distance of a mile or so. Running isn't about having massive levels of runumdium in the bloodstream, it's about learning how much effort to exert at the proper times. When I first start to run, I never feel good. The body has been enjoying being at rest, and it is never quite sure that it wants to change that position. There's the annoyance that the weather outside is miserable this time of year, and I'm wearing far more doo-dads and gizmos than I want to wear. I don't want to wear gloves; it's cold outside so I must. I don't want a flashlight, vehicles are dangerous so I must. So, I spend my time getting everything on. And, even running after having done it a hundred times, I'm slow out of the gate, and wonder why I'm doing it. But, after a little while, everything starts to click into it's proper place. I find whatever pace I feel like running at. I start to find those paths around the trails that I've learned, along with all the pinnacles and sloughs. It doesn't take me long to find where I want to be, and once I'm there, I'm good to go for awhile. None of us start out this way, though. It's like playing the guitar. It sounds great to say that Eric Clapton just picked up a guitar for the first time and started making awesome music. It's far more accurate to say that Eric Clapton spend a ton of time practicing, figuring out how to make the notes sound good, and then started to rock the guitar. He's probably afraid every time that he gets on stage, but knows it'll come back, and just be part of his guitar playing nature. There's probably someone else who picked up a guitar the same day as Eric. On that day, Eric probably didn't sound any better than that person. But, no one remembers the name of that person, we remember Eric Clapton, who realized that he's be able to play well, and saw beyond the moment to the possibility.