Running is not half as simple as I once thought. There was a time when I believed that the practice was a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, preferably at a speed faster than walking and ideally wearing well-cushioned running shoes. How naive I was…
It turns out that achieving optimum results involves running at speeds you might usually expect to attain only if pursued by a large, hungry beast with teeth, then slowing to a more sedate pace, before accelerating to hungry-beast-in-pursuit speed again. Or else, it involves plodding really, really slowly, in case the heart monitor strapped to your chest goes off. (It is primed to beep alarmingly should your heart rate exceed 180 minus your age. It doesn’t take much for your heart rate to exceed 180 minus your age). The run-until-your-heart-bursts threshold method is embraced by fitness experts and proper athletes. The run-without-upsetting-your-heart Maffetone method is also embraced by fitness experts and proper athletes. I am neither a fitness expert nor a proper athlete, and I am bewildered. And that’s before we even start on the well-cushioned running shoes issue.
This is the first time I’ve ever trained for a marathon and then gone on to train for another one immediately afterwards. I usually train, do the marathon, and swear never to even attempt such stupidity again. I thought that one of the advantages of going directly from one period of training to another would be an acquired fitness that would make long runs effortless. I imagined plotting novels (or shopping lists, at least) as I loped easily along, the miles slipping by almost unnoticed. It’s not like that. At all. My 12-mile run today was as much of a slog as it was a couple of months ago. That is why I am bothered.
This is just one of the scenes that accompanied my run today. It’s probably not even one of the best scenes, but had I stopped every time I glimpsed a gorse-crested crag, a swan-dappled lake or a stand of new growth rippling in sunlight, I would still be running. And it’s dark now. So for all my bewilderment and botheration, the bewitching aspects of running in Killarney make it all worth while.