On the Wings of Obscurity

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December 3, 2014 by scratchtype1

I lift and turn my arm to look at the Garmin. Cripes, how’m I running this pace at this low of a heart rate? Just then, the light rain and drizzle is augmented by the sound of larger and heavier drops. I then think, “Ahh, if only Icarus had flown on a day like today, his wings would have never melted when he rose too far above his level of obscurity.”

Then also, maybe the cold rain would have made his wings too heavy and he would have never flown, never known that brief glimpse of glory before his tumble down.

The first runs after my successful goal race were humbling. The legs had nothing in them and only a couple of days ago I courted with some dark thoughts in my head — had I run so hard that the legs cannot recover now?

But now, not long after those, the legs are feeling much better, enough so that after I had done a 15 minute warmup of easy running, I did 4x8s hill sprints along with some skipping, buttkicks, and a set of 100 ups, then followed by a run where I did 6x20s fast strides then the rest of the run home easy.

And so now here I am again, out running in the gray obscurity of December, in the cold rain and feeling good with the chilly embrace and solitude. I’ve already gone a little over 6 miles and will do a couple more to end up with a little more than 8.


Since the half-marathon, I’ve thought a lot about what went right this year and what went wrong. I’ve wondered about what I have maybe learned and what maybe I still keep as delusions.

Run more miles? That went mostly well. After the last run, I’m now at 1233.4 miles for the year. All those miles made a huge difference during the half-marathon, as over and over I reminded myself that I’ve made running almost as automatic as breathing. Even though I was running at a pace much faster than most of those, I could still fall back upon thoughts like, “Only 5 more miles to go. You’ve run 5 miles many times now, this is no different.”  Or how when I did the uphills that are part of the course, I thought back to the many times I had gone up hills steeper and bigger than those. While officially I’ve now run the half-marathon course there 5 times, (2007-10, 2014), while I ran it this last time I felt like I had already run it a multitude of times. There wasn’t anything it could put before me that I hadn’t already run before.

Well except maybe the huge crowd of runners. solitary running has its benefits, there are also drawbacks. Like with most anything.

The one problem from the more miles was running myself into a bit of injury. I never went to a doctor for it and was never diagnosed what it was. The pain in the left hip resolved itself after about 7 weeks of greatly reduced running. I did lose some of the aerobic development during that time. Without that injury, I could have well been a few minutes faster.

On the other hand, the injury did make me look at what I was doing and think about the nature of long-distance running. It strikes me there are two prominent features to run with speed over distance — neuromuscular coordination and strength, and aerobic capacity. Developing my aerobic capacity was good, doing so without a proper scheme to help with the neuromuscular coordination wasn’t so good. I suspect strongly that my left hip became aggravated from how my glute muscles were not well trained to fire the way they should when running.  So when I got back to running after the injury, I began to do work like hill sprints, skipping, buttkicks, and 100 ups. I’ve now run over 300 miles since then and the left hip is feeling good.

But, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we should wait to see how the hip is doing after another 300 to 500 miles or so. But I do feel like there is a difference in my running gait now. I can feel the glutes doing more and that maybe the left hip flexor isn’t being overburdened. I hope so, because if that does help to keep me injury free, it will help me with the tentative goals I have for 2015:

1.  Run more miles. At the very least, I hope to average over 30 miles per week and reach 1560 miles in 2015. If I can run more than that, even better.

2. PR in the 5K and half-marathon. I hope to do the 5K PR at Dash 4 Diabetes in April. I will look for the half-marathon PR in the fall, maybe in Philly, maybe not.  Now, depending on weather and circumstance, I might do the Icicle 10-Miler in Wilmington in January and snag a PR there.

I wonder some if race PRs or race goals serve as a substitute for the hunting instinct we developed when we became predators by running large prey animals until they collapsed from heat exhaustion. I still think there is a very important sense to running as a way to feel connected and happier, but my recent half-marathon surprised me at how focused my mind became during the race. I was quite clear and sharp and after about the 5th mile, it felt like I went into an extended sort of runner’s high, where everything was feeding into driving me along.

What do you think? Do you think races are a way now for us to hunt almost?


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