David Yuill

2 posts

Walking – the taboo word amongst runners

Mention of the word ‘walking’ amongst most runners is equivalent of many other taboo utterances that in different contexts elicit the same sensations of disgust, weakness and inferiority. Such is the mind-trap that social pressures and at times conventional wisdom incorrectly leads us to believe.

Is there a place for walking in running? A fair number agree there is, but only within the narrow realms of easy runs, training runs or when tackling difficult inclines. Mention the word ‘walk breaks’ in the context of a race and the default vindication again falls back on tackling those difficult inclines and/or associated with a strategy usually applicable to ultra-endurance events. Mention ‘walking’ within the context of a 10km road race and people will think you are stark raving mad, unless of course you have hit the proverbial wall.

Conventional wisdom, social pressures and ego often dictate what we should and should not be doing or saying. And the same is often true when we run races. If one is dictated by one’s ego and the accompanying social pressures on how (or who) to race, then one is at the mercy of these external influences and has equivalently lost focus of what really matters – YOU. Unfortunately, we too often than not, get caught up in this idiocy on race day and hence risk jeopardising the many weeks of training and sacrifice that went before.

In everyday life, we go on a walk to clear the head, to take time-out, to relax or break the manic stressors and pace of life, often returning with renewed energy, vigour and clarity of thought. The same holds true in races. By applying a planned walk strategy we are effectively doing the same. These walk-breaks lower our heart rate, aids our recovery, clears our thoughts, breaks the accumulated stressors of our respective racing pace and just as importantly allows one to calm the ego and return one’s focus to YOU.

With the Cape Town marathon and 10km approaching this weekend, I encourage those bold and wise enough to incorporate a walk strategy into their race plan. Should social pressures and ego start to dictate and play havoc with your well intentioned plans, then provide your walk strategy with an appropriate euphemism such as “refuelling my shoes” to sustain your disposition.

Walking should not be taboo within running, but rather embraced as it is in everyday life.

Running – it’s not all about time

We spend our lives obsessed with and controlled by time. We wake up at a certain  time, get the kids to school at a certain time, go to work at a certain time, attend meetings at a certain time, leave work at a certain time, fetch the kids at a certain time, and go to bed (mostly) at a certain  time … only for the cycle to repeat itself the next day, and the day after that.

For some this brings structure and we call it routine. For others, it brings monotony and inflexibility and we call it boredom. Some love the structure of time and are hardly ever late, while others operate as if time does not exist. It can be argued that where we fall along this continuum informs how we define time ­– as an immovable finite point or as an elastic band that can be stretched in perpetuity.

When it comes to running, our obsession with time escalates to the point of being unhealthy. Hang around any group of runners and the conversation invariably leads to, “What is your best time for …?”, “How fast can you run this distance?”, “What speed are you training at?” and so on.

When we run, we are constantly monitoring our time, speed and distance. If we can do a  5km in X time, then we should be able to run a half marathon in Y time. Or alternatively, if we want to achieve a target time in a race, then we need to train intervals or thresholds at a certain pace. Hence, time becomes ingrained into our running psyche, becoming the sole criteria that determines our ability.

But running is not all about time; it’s about far more than that. Running is about enjoyment, regardless of the time it takes to complete a race. It’s about the friendships we make, laughter, stories shared, journeys travelled together and supporting one another. Yet we often lose sight of this.

For example, when we get injured, we immediately want to know how long it’ll be until we can run again, rather than what we should be doing to avoid injury in the future. Time becomes the focal point, the end goal, and we lose sight of what actually is important.

In running, as in life, time will always be there – from the start of the gun to the finish line. What really matters is how we spend that time, how we enjoy ourselves, how we support one another and how we thank others for giving up their time .

So, at your next race, don’t focus on your finishing time. Rather focus on enjoying the camaraderie, helping or encouraging others, and thanking those who give up their time (like the marshals and supporters). Time flies when you’re having fun, so focus on the important things and you might fly as well.