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Not a Walker

2 September 2011
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Last night I ran home the long way round – 7.5 miles. I’m not doing many runs this week so I’m making them count. At the South side of Regent’s Park, about 25 minutes in to my run, I felt suddenly weary. As I crossed the bridge over the boating lake, about 3/4 of the way around the Park, I was about to stop to walk. There’s a long slow incline from that bridge to the gate and it is my least favourite section of any run there. It isn’t a hill, it barely qualifies as an incline. Yet somehow the path is awkward to run on, I’m always at my most tired at that point, and I have a history of slowing down to walk it.

Yesterday I did the same, slowed down and was about to start walking – just to the gate, then I would start running again. As my legs elongated into a loping stride and my shoulders relaxed, I changed my mind. No, I would not walk. I would do what I always encourage new runners to do when they are just starting out – slow down, go as slowly as you need to, slow down to a ridiculous level, but never walk.

Running very slowly uses a similar amount of energy as walking briskly, there’s very little difference between the two speed-wise, but the vital difference remains. Running is running, no matter how slowly or quickly you are doing it. Walking is not running.

Yesterday I stuck to running, I slowed down about four times during the run, maybe five. On the hill to Tufnell Park I thought about walking a lot. I’ve walked up that road many times; it’s post-6 miles, I feel I’ve had a good run, I deserve to walk for a bit. Not this time. By slowing down a bit I got my breath back, recovered a bit of bounce in my legs. I didn’t feel any more tired at the end of the run, I didn’t work any harder, but I feel much better about myself now. Running really is at least 50% mental effort and I have been slacking lately. Time to turn it around.

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