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)