Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Believe in the (Recovery) Run

Perhaps you've seen them: the relatively new Nike running ads that center around the theme "Believe in the Run." Some of them are pretty clever, and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't cut one (or three) out and hung them in my cubicle at work. Covering up the life-sapping "Benjamin Moore cubicle gray" walls that surround my desk at work is for another post.

In the last couple weeks, I've come to make this mantra my own, only modifying it slightly to read, "Believe in the Recovery Run." A recent issue of the Running Times featured a column by legendary coach Roy Benson (somewhat related side note: he coached my dad at one point), where Benson dared readers and runners alike to be man (or woman) enough to do a real recovery run. That is to say, run at a pace that may seem impossibly slow or easy and leaves you questioning whether or not it was worth the time to lace up the kicks and head out on the roads. American runners have often been criticized for doing long and recovery runs too fast and speed workouts too slow.

I am just as guilty as the next. Sometimes I feign ignorance, glancing down at my watch at the end of a so-called recovery run, knowing full well the time is going to be much lower than it should have been. Really though, who am I trying to justify this to?

So, it was with deep resolve (and manliness) that I headed out for a recovery run last night. One of my bargaining chips the day before in that God-awful long run was that at least I had Monday off. What happened? Life, essentially. No other time to squeeze in some of these runs this week, so I sucked it up and headed out.

To ensure a slower pace, I took my unsuspecting dog with me, who has pretty much refused to run with me over the course of the last year. I knew that taking her would force me to run slower, if only to coax her to keep going.

I thought about this run all day – including whether or not to do it all. In fairness, I was in an eight-hour training staring at a computer all day, so it weighed heavy on my mind. In particular, the tightness that seemed to run from just under my left butt cheek all the way down to my Achilles.

Still, Mattie and I headed out, in the dark, at a nice easy pace. We eased our way into the run. Me, trying to find my stride and fall into a nice steady rhythm to get the legs functioning again. Her, accepting my running proposal but stopping every twenty feet or so to both pee and contemplate. Seriously, the choppiness nearly made me turn back not a half mile in. That and the temp was creeping up around 70 again.

My consolation came from an earlier decision to scale the run down from seven to five, particularly given the long-undulating hills of our neighborhood. And so we went.

That’s when it happened. About a mile in, Mattie took her “running like a good dog” post, out in front of me and to the right. And that rhythm I searched (hoped) for, fell into place. The endorphins flooded in and here we were, running like a well-oiled machine. The tightness in my hamstring eased, the literal pain in my butt disappeared, and my breath would hardly have disturbed a tumbleweed of Mattie’s fur collecting on our hardwoods.

We returned to the house 38-minutes later, each slightly panting and parched. My mind felt awake for the first time all day. The dog got her exercise. And that nagging tightness that brought thoughts of impending injury doom on my left side had vanished. What’s more, it stuck with me through the night, i.e. there was no awkward, hobble to the bathroom walk this morning when the alarm went off. When I got home tonight and set out for my interval workout, my legs were more fresh than they’d been in a few weeks.

Believe in the Recovery Run. Manliness achieved.

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