Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Thursday, 13 May 2010

You look good in those shorts

What is the greatest compliment one can pay a runner?

1. "You are fast" (no comparisons or specifications, just straight-out)
2. "You're so talented"
3. "I can't believe that you could run that fast" (okay, now I'm getting silly)
4. "Nice technique"
5. "Nice genes"
6. "Nice jeans"
7. "You've really improved"
8. "You look really happy"
9. "You've got a nice ass!"

Well, if it's just a superficial conversation a "you are fast" is always nice, albeit meaningless. I have for a long time had a dream of running a race in jeans, so I would hope to get #6 in the event that does occur. But honestly, of all of them, I'd take #9. I mean, come on, I can't be the only person who hopes that their ass looks impressive as they pass someone in a race. So I'm not sure if that says more about how important it is to feel one has a nice ass or how hard it is to find a compliment for a runner. Except for one, which is my favorite and which I didn't mention but will return to in a moment.

Sandhya asked how I have gotten to the point of running such fast mile intervals. Well, as many of you are aware of, my answers are rarely simple. First of all, I believe that inside of every human (who is capable of running) is a fast runner. Everyone for a moment, please, forget the idea of genetics and realize that if you want to run fast at short or long distances that you can. The question is how hard or easy it is for each of us to access this fast person. And no, I don't think I've accessed my true fast potential yet, but I am getting closer.

We all have different starting points on that day we call ourselves "a runner". And no, I am not talking about "talent" or "genes", I am talking about general physical condition as a result of previous exercise, weight and self-confidence. All of these play an enormous roll when one becomes "a runner" in comparison to anything written in our chromosomes. I will just go out on a limb here and say that anyone who is considered to be an extremely talented runner as an adult has run (or practiced some endurance sport at a high level) since childhood. I challenge any of you to find an exception to this. Classically people who think they will never be a fast runner because that is just they way they are built/made/created are people who did not have regular exercise in childhood and young adulthood and take running up after age 25 to get in shape. These people have a lot of ground to make up. And yes, it will take years (but they can of course get there)! How can I convince everyone that all talk about genetics, supplements, high-protein other fad diets, gear, etc. is all meaningless in comparison to being at a light weight and in excellent cardiovascular condition? (not that genetics and gear should generally be categorized together)

Now back to the question. So, before I started doing any sort of speedwork, I had already run a 5k in 19:20, a 10k in 42:40 and an 80k in under 9 hours. And to get to this point it took years and years of pushing myself in running and other sports. But then it was weird. Last fall I started getting slower. And I had a huge crisis. But I identified two people who I thought were such amazing and inspirational runners: May-Britt and Mette. SR thinks I am jealous of them. But I assure you, my feelings are much more constructive than this. When I see them run, I think to myself, "that is how I want to run" and I believe I can. The biggest hurdle after getting in good physical condition and believing one can be fast is finding a training program. And this was all new to me this past fall. It is SR's training program I have been following consisting of 3 key runs a week: intervals, 1 tempo and a relatively fast long run. All other running is junk and should be decreased (in all of my restlessness I've become much better at swimming, cycling and yoga).

When I started running intervals, I could not for the life of me get myself to even complete 6 x 1 mile. I would do 2 miles in just over 7 minutes each and be toast. So part of getting to the point of doing consistently fast intervals has been learning to control myself to the point where I can make it through all 6 with a consistently fast effort. Once I got to that point, I averaged around 7:25 per mile. Since that time, I have just gradually gotten faster and faster. And am now at a 6:40 average.

So now, back to the greatest compliment one can pay a runner, well, it must be "you inspire me". Why do I always get so sappy? Anyway, thank you Olga, Meghan Hicks, Helen Lavin, Piccola Pinecone, Mette, May-Britt and most of all my husband SR. You guys have inspired me!

Running song of the day: sometimes a song comes of out the crypts to surprise you (thanks Steve Q) Ça plane pour moi by Plastic Bertrand


Sandhya said...

Thank you so much for this impassioned and informative answer. I should have said earlier that I am certainly inspired by your example and by your consistent emphasis on hard work as the real key to success -- so many thanks for being so open about your own journey.

olga said...

"Nice ass" would be on top of my list. I remember getting it first time at Jan 2 2005 during FA50k in WA, 2 days after another FA50k in OR. I was in my best shape and followed by a very good endurance athlete (as in "many sports") who is NOT an American born (re: your own pointer). He said something to the extent "Whoa, a female runner with a female shape, finally!". What actually has nothing to do with nice ass in your opinion, most likely, but surely makes me smile when I do pass a skinny gal:)

Marilyn said...

I enjoyed this post and would have enjoyed it even more several years ago, when I still had the ability to improve. You didn't mention aging, the great equalizer. Granted, some "old" people still run fast, but they don't run as fast as they used to. If they did, Joan Samuelson would be an Olympian in 2012. Enjoy the upward curve, SLG!

Captain Hairdo said...

I will tell you that as a guy, I have had that thought about many a female runner. But I wouldn't feel comfortable just blurting it out- I don't want to get a rep for being creepy! I've said it to female running friends, but only to good friends, and only when it seemed reasonable in the context. I think as guys, we've been led to be quiet about our thoughts so that we don't offend you, creep you out, or make you feel objectified.

But if any of you female runners see me on the trail, and want to tell me that I have a nice ass, I promise not to be offended!

Marilyn said...

My comment above is edited to add this: Every time I hear one of the songs from the CD you sent, I am inspired by you, truly.

Meghan said...

Sea Legs,

You have a pure joy for running that goes far beyond times on watches and distances traveled, and that inspires me! So, back at you! :)


PiccolaPineCone said...

Ah... I still remember the day about a week after I got two lines on that little pee stick when I googled "pregnancy, running" and found your blog. Your blog reinforced my idea that running through pregnancy and gaining less than 25 pounds was okay and you inspired me to start writing again so... in the balance of things, it is I who thank you!

May-Britt Hansen said...

You want to run like me??? Well, that would be a setback, for someone running as fast as you!

But thank you for the nicest words I can hear as a runner. To inspire others is a way of giving back to the sport that have given me so much in such a short time :-)

I´ll be looking for you in Copenhagen, cheering you on for a PR. I´ll be standing with Jesper Olsen on Trianglen which you´ll pass 3 times.

Fast Bastard said...

Olga, I had to laugh when I read your comment. A great compliment that came out without sounding creepy.

Now if another guy told me "nice ass", followed by "they just don't make running shorts like they did in the 70s", that would be creepy.

sea legs girl said...

Hey, my pleasure, Sandhya!

Now all of my heroes have commented except Mette, who doesn't know this blog exists oh and Helen. Well, she'll come around at some point. I am just so blessed. But enough sappiness.

Olga, you do have a nice ass, which became apparent to me as I saw you running quickly away from me at the aid station at Hells Hills. I unfortunately look like a guy from the back. This became more apparent than ever when SR was trying to race who he thought was a teenage boy ahead of him the other day, who turned out to be me.

Thanks for the warning, Marilyn :). I think female running peaks just before menopause, honestly, barring some injury or specific health problem, but I will find out for myself soon enough. Glad you like the songs!

Captain Hairdo, How delightful to hear from you. You are more than welcome to compliment my ass at any race. Now, I don't know where you live, but you never know... And perhaps I will have to randomly start complimenting men on their asses, hoping that one of them will be the non-offended you :).

Oh, Meghan, great comment!

Piccola, no no no. I thank YOU!!! :) So there.

May-Britt, let me put it this way. When I think of being a good runner, I think mostly of long-distances. A young girl beating me at the 100 meter dash wouldn't mean much to me. The two of us are interesting, though, we become even somewhere around the marathon distance. You (much) better at longer, me at shorter. And now the pressure is on for me! I hope hope hope to get a time close to your PR next Sunday. I will look for both of you at Trianglen. Speaking of inspirational, Jesper Olsen is exactly that (for the readers who don't know he is the runner who just ran all the way around the world and wrote a book about it!).

F Bastard, thank you for the ultimate compliment in blogging: a comment from you.

SteveQ said...

Okay, so I don't inspire you, but haunt the crypts where they keep old music. I'll take that.

Personally, the best compliment I ever got in running was, "Before you did that, I thought it was impossible. I still think it's impossible." Favorite blog comment remains "I always read your blog first. It links to the ones I like."

mmmonyka said...

Why nice ass? What about legs?
I had this conversation last week:
Our men's volleyball captain said to our women's captain who complained about how her legs hurt that she should not do weights when her legs are too tired and at the end he said "il faut pas avoir les jambes comme Monika" (which basically means that if you do those weights you will have legs like Monika and you certainly do not want that"). Hm...what exactly did he mean by that? I asked him and he responded: "Hm,,, I did not meant anything,hm,,, I meant your injured knee, not your legs, hm,,,I think you have beautiful runner's legs,hm,,,". I decided not to think about that and just take it as a compliment.

sea legs girl said...

Steve Q, It's not that you don't inspire me at all, but if I started trying to run like you in a race, it might end up in tragic injury... Speaking of which, hope the race went well yesterday :). Oh, and you DO inspire me with your humorous writing. Though it's much easier to become fast by inspiration than funny.

Mmmonyka, just remember, no one would ever make fun of your legs if they really were bad-looking! It was probably more like, let's give the one with the good legs a hard time :). But oh yeah, a legs compliment is also a compliment I'd glady accept.