Nearly everything I know about running I’ve learned from other runners. Sure, I’ve picked up some great training tips from books and magazines, but most of the really important information about running or being a runner I’ve learned by watching and talking to other runners.
Recently I learned another lesson about running. This time it came from someone who’s been running for less than a year. Our run together didn’t start off being instructive, but as often happens when running, good fortune intervened. I came away with a new insight both into my own running and into running in general.
Like so many others, when I first started running I was afraid to talk to other people who ran. I was sure that they would be condescending or at least uninterested in the concerns of a neophyte. After all, I had started running later in life and I had very little talent. I was certain they’d just brush me off.
I was wrong. Almost without exception, every runner I asked was happy to answer any questions. If anything, they gave me more information than I needed. Runners, it turns out, like to talk about running. Imagine!
I worried, too, that maybe people took pity on me because I looked as if I desperately needed help. I was shocked when even the speediest runners were willing to offer advice. Most of the time I didn’t understand what they were talking about, but they were generous just the same.
But it hasn’t only been the runners ahead of me who have offered assistance. Many times it was someone at the back of the pack who offered suggestions on equipment and training. And it was often the advice from a back-of-the-pack runner that was the most useful to me. In this case, the new insight came from someone who was newer to running than I was.
Charles and I were running in a very pleasant neighbourhood of older homes with well-manicured lawns and gardens. He enjoys looking at gardens, and had devised an interval work-out which allowed him to run while admiring them. I’ve come to call it the Flower Power training sequence.
His plan was simple: to run from garden to garden; when you ran, you ran with intensity; when you looked at the gardens, you looked with intensity. We followed this plan for an hour. By alternating effort and rest, I had one of the most enjoyable runs of my life. And it was a great work-out.
I asked this friend how he came up with the plan. “I first did it when I was a kid,” he answered. As a child, the joy for him was in running as fast as possible from flower to flower or from garden to garden. A field of flowers became nature’s own fitness trail.
Since then I’ve been taking a Flower Power run nearly every week. Sometimes I look at gardens. Sometimes I look at squirrels or children or young lovers or old cars… it doesn’t matter. I know I’m going to push hard until I see something interesting. Then I’ll ease up for a few minutes. And then I’ll run hard some more.
We can get so caught up in the time and the mileage that we miss everything else on our runs. We miss the flowers and the gardens. We miss the things intimately involved with our run that make the run more pleasant. Most of us talk about going for a run, but if I’m paying attention, I sometimes end up going in a run. And when that happens, when I am no longer separated from my surroundings, I find that I can move outside of myself and inside my run. When I allow my senses to connect to the simple beauty around me, I find that there is less distance between where I’m running and why I’m running.
Flower power. Now there’s a 1960s idea that still makes sense.
Waddle on, friends.