--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Like many endurance athletes, I am particular about how I go about my day, what I eat, and how I train. I like to workout in the morning, but I can only do so after a couple cups of coffee and about an hour of wake-up time. I run long on Sundays, not Saturdays. I also keep track of my mileage from Sunday to Saturday and not Monday to Sunday.
In addition to running long on Sundays, I like to run a medium-long run on Wednesdays. I usually complete this run after taking my daughters to school. Something came up, however, that made me need to begin today’s run at six o’clock in the morning. Running earlier than usual also meant that I couldn’t run ten or 11 miles like I had wanted. I would only have time for six. (My plan to run six on Friday has now changed to running ten or 11.)
Luckily, I have a friend and training partner who was running at six this morning as well, so I let him know last night that I’d be joining him for his four miles today. This morning he did not feel like moving very quickly, and even though we both wanted to run easy, I couldn’t believe how slowly we were trotting. I tried to encourage a faster pace, but nothing would budge him from his 9:15 miles. (I even started walking next to him at one point to demonstrate how slow he was moving.) After we finished our four miles together, I finished my last mile and a half at a much faster pace.
As I reflect back on our run together this morning, I feel bad for harassing my friend so mercilessly about how slow we were running. I know I call it encouragement above, but that encouragement involved humiliation and taking digs at his manhood.
I read often that coaches today believe runners run too easy on hard days and too hard on easy days. And recently I listened to a podcast that replayed a panel discussion on running form during which Frank Shorter recalled that his running group would always run the pace of the member who was running easiest that day. My friend and I had an easy run today, and I’m not sure we could have run too easy.
Muscles get stronger by adapting to stress, and strong relationships rely on the willingness of each individual to adapt to the needs of one another. Heck, adaptation is the only reason anything survives. By running more easily this morning without complaining, my muscles could have been better prepared to handle the stress of tomorrow's tempo run and my training partner and I could have had a more engaging conversation than my childish taunting allowed. I shall be more accommodating in the future.