Running Gently

Grete Waitz

Grete Waitz

Grete Waitz has been a hero of mine since I was a teenager. I was lucky to meet her once. I think I just stared in awe until I blurted out awkwardly “I love you!” and snapped her photo while she smiled in a friendly way.

I love her smile and gracefulness especially as she held onto them while running incredible speeds and obliterating records. I love the fact that she had started as a track athlete as a teenager, and just kept running, racing and loving it throughout her whole life. I love the story about her first marathon where she had no clue how long the distance actually was but kept running at a torrid pace, sure that the finish line had to be somewhere. When she finished (in a world record time) she took off her shoes and threw them at her coach/husband and said “I’ll never do that again!” Of course she went on to run and win many more. She was tiny but tough as nails. And she was very wise. I’ve read a lot of her writings about running. One thing I will always recall is a phrase used by her in one of her training logs – Gentle Run. As in: “Tuesday a.m. – 45 min Gentle Run”. I love that term. It doesn’t say Slow Run or Easy Run, it says Gentle Run, which is a very different term.

To me ‘running gently’ means running by feel and being in-tune with my body. During hard training sessions, I shut out what my body is telling me so that I can push through to higher fitness levels. Obviously Grete did that as well, or she wouldn’t have had the amazing results that she did! However, she clearly saw the benefits of listening to her body on “gentle” days so that she could recover.

Right now I am slowly feeling my way back from an injury, so all of my runs are gentle. I’ve been running gently for three weeks and am feeling stronger, so soon I will add some “not so gentle” running in. However, I will always keep gentle running as a key ingredient in my training schedule.

A few tips on running gently:

* Park your ego – no “racing” other runners who pass you (ugh – I totally did that the other day)
* Don’t think about an upcoming race while running – that always leads to a faster pace
* Outside is better than treadmills – I find it really hard to keep a ‘gentle’ pace on a treadmill
* Either know the approx time or distance you’re going for, but never both
* Stop and walk if you feel like it
* Pick it up if you feel like it
* Don’t wear sleek racing clothes or trainers which make you feel like you should be running fast
* Run for as long as you’re enjoying it, and stop as soon as you’re not

“I don’t think I would have been such a good runner if I hadn’t enjoyed it.” – Grete Waitz (1953-2011)

Grete Waitz

Still smiling

I had a goal to run the Around The Bay 30K race in a PB time of 1:56. I trained hard through the winter and stuck to my schedule despite tough training conditions – freezing temps, icy roads, knee deep snow. Then, three weeks out from the race I sustained a hamstring injury. It stopped me from training properly from there on in, but I was still hopeful that I’d be able to race. I laced up on race day and started out on goal pace. However, by 10K I started to struggle with tightness around my injury and by 13K I knew I couldn’t maintain my pace. Instead of risking further damage, I decided to slow down and jog/walk back while cheering on other runners.


How am I taking this? How do I feel? What of all the work gone to waste? What next?

I feel fine, I’m happy for the work I’ve done, I’m optimistic, and most importantly, I’m still smiling.

After my race, my husband sent me a quote by Winston Churchill. If you ever need to channel some optimism, grit, determination, inspiration and inner strength, look to Churchill. Here are some reasons which I have to smile, backed by his words:

1. I’m smiling because I did manage to run through this brutal winter, and having a goal pulled me along where I otherwise may have run a lot less – and I’m glad I didn’t!
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
2. I’m smiling because I can still run. Being injured makes you realize how much you take for granted. I can’t run hard (right now) but I can run, which I’ll continue to do until I can run hard again.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
3. I’m smiling because I’m optimistic about my future running. I’ve learned that I can’t take little things for granted, like not doing core/strengthening exercises. With my renewed focus I know I will come back stronger.
“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” – Winston Chuchill
4. I’m smiling, because if you’re not smiling, then you should stop until you can, and I’m not stopping.
“War is a game that is played with a smile. If you can’t smile, grin. If you can’t grin, keep out of the way till you can.” – Winston Churchill

Smiling at 29K

Smiling at 29K