Thursday, January 26, 2006

Erin was the best slow runner

I think I may have saved myself. I was in danger of becoming a good slow runner.

Many years ago there was a girl who used to train at Calwell. Erin was one of those lucky runners blessed with natural talent. She could run fast and make it look easy. She also practised with the dedication that produced top-three finishes in national competition as a young teenager. She once placed third to Georgie Clarke in the national U16 800 metres. Erin no longer runs seriously and you're more likely to find her photograph in the social pages than the sporting pages of The Canberra Times.

Back in the 1990s during winter I'd sometimes take the group on 'long runs' lasting 45 minutes to an hour or more. One of these adventures sticks in my memory. It wasn't the one where we stopped for ice creams; or the one where our shortcut through the bush became a swamp; or the one where we practised our discus throwing with dried cow pats; or the one where Kelly rolled her ankle and had to be carried through paddocks to a farmer's house. It was the one where I discovered an extra quality to Erin's running.

We were homeward bound when I noticed Erin was falling behind the group. I dropped back to run with her. She kept running slower until we were crawling along at a snail's pace. She was the best slow runner I'd ever seen and nine years later I take great pleasure in reminding her of that fact whenever I see her around town. By moving like a glacier on that run she was making a 13-year-old's not so subtle point that she disliked slow running.

Thinking about Erin reminds me that I also dislike slow running. Why then have I fallen into this pattern of moving slowly? I guess it's 'easy' and doesn't take much thought. The bad thing about doing so much slow running is that over time your body learns this pattern of movement. A 'Cliffy shuffle' is not the best style of movement to adopt if you want be a fast distance runner. What works best is an economical version of the middle distance running pattern.

Erin was a fast runner because that's what she did most of the time. Her body felt comfortable running that way because that's what it knew best. The drills Mike taught her reinforced this pattern of movement. For her, running slowly was uncomfortable just as running fast these days is uncomfortable for me. My body has learned all too well the pattern of slow movement. It's time to change.


Blogger Luckylegs said...

Oh dear, how sad! I suppose that means you'll never again run with CB!

11:21 pm  
Blogger Robert Song said...

Could this be an alternative explanation of what Erin was going through?

7:54 am  
Blogger R2B said...

You have a vgood point there,to be quick you must spend time running quick so i that seems like a facitous comment.

1:24 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

You may have noticed that I have been trying to run near to 4min/k most days for at least part of the training run. That's because I realised I was just getting slower and slower in training and couldn't expect to race fast and short if I didn't do something about it. Years ago I started doing year round track work. (The jury's still out on whether it's a good idea. That's why I haven't said much yet.) Also, I still haven't been able to race 800s yet. We will see how this year's attempts at 1500s go. But yes, you run like you train.

5:44 pm  
Blogger CJ said...

OK that does it - I'm increasing my pace. You're right, slow running is easy in that you don't have to think about it but just shuffle along. Its very easy to just keep doing that.

As for the oozing (don't you just love that word!) - I had a pretty big lump below my knee which is going down so obviously there was quite a bit of oozing to do! Sorry!

11:05 pm  
Blogger Stu said...

Ewen, I think thats why speed sessions at the track are such an important ingredient to good distance running. I have no doubt that my track sessions & hill training are the 2 biggest reasons for my improvement during the past 12 months.

3:36 pm  
Blogger Tesso said...

Interesting post. Just hope I don't remember it next time I feel like running slow.

Thanks for the song requests. I hope like hell to be 'Alive and Kicking' at 6am on Sunday :-)

7:01 pm  
Anonymous wannabecoach said...


I think your next story could be "Kathy is the Best Fast Runner" (see 8th comment, previous post).

6:31 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

To answer Robert's question (which has inspired my next post), Erin had completed many of these slow runs previously. On this particular day she was exceptionally slow which makes her the best slow runner, just as Kathy is one of the best fast runners.

8:06 pm  

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