The Berlin marathon is looming, and so is my apprehension. My running coach, Phoebe Thomas, has made it quite clear that I am to run the marathon at a deliberately slow pace. “Treat it as a normal training run”, she advised, “It’s important that you conserve your energy, and remain injury free, for the ultra marathon the following week”.
The thing is, guys, I’m nervous. See, I know that I can run 26.2 miles, I’ve done it before, so that’s not the problem here. As stupid as it sounds, I’m actually nervous about running slowly. Over the last few months of my Operation Ultra training, Phoebe has included interval, fartlek and hill sessions in my training schedule. Despite the trepidation and feelings of hate that revolve around speed sessions, I have naturally become much faster, and I now generally spend my ‘recovery’ runs gently reminding myself to slow down.
S.L.O.W. down. It seems easy enough, right? Not for me! I feel like this isn’t just about running, either. I spend my life at full tilt, crashing head first into the next item on my ‘to do’ list, barely giving myself enough time to mark it off, before picking myself up and dashing away again. My mind works at a million-miles-per-hour, and woah, you guys, if it’s not one thing, it’s another thing, a never-ending whirlwind of THINGS! To do! I’m convinced that if my legs moved as quickly as my brain synapses, I’d be seriously giving Usain Bolt a (pun intended) run for his money.
Aren’t we all rushing? How many of us are actively mindful of the things going on around us? My iPhone constantly barrages me with streams of information. Jenny sent you a text message! Your sister just emailed! Andy just tweeted something about you! Paul wants to be your friend on Facebook! Your Nanna just called! My brain just imploded! Hey! Maybe you should update your MySpace to let everyone know that your brain just imploded! Duh! Nobody uses MySpace anymore!
On yesterday’s training run, as part of my ultra marathon taper, I ran at an 11 minute mile pace. Do you know how slow that felt? Hi! I am walking! It felt so odd! I actually had to imagine that someone was physically pushing against me, forcing me to lessen my speed, because I just could not ease my foot off the gas. It took at least a mile or so to become accustomed to the slower pace, but as I did, I noticed something. My mind started to feel clearer. I became much more aware of my breathing and how my body felt. I ran tall and let my gaze guide me. I saw houses tucked away at the ends of driveways I’d never seen before and shops that had closed and re-opened as cafes. I saw birds perched on branches and a man in a kayak on the river. I felt the cool wind against my face and the freshly fallen autumnal leaves crunch underfoot. I was appreciating my surroundings! Life, in those moments, seemed much less harried.
Phoebe’s advice to slow down during the marathon is a wonderful analogy for life in general. If we live our lives at the speed of a 100 metre sprint, we miss out on so much and we fail to notice the things that are happening around us. Wouldn’t life be much simpler if we all just slowed down?