I once read a very simple book on running titled, ‘The Zen of Running‘ by Fred Rohe. The imagery and style of the book very clearly placed this book in the 70’s. Regardless of the rather ‘flower-power’ feeling of the book it did contain a few gems, in particular the following quote.
“Run within your breath”
This is my mantra to myself when I am running. It is the gem that I have imparted to friends beginning to take on running as a sport or pastime. It is my secret fuel.
The above quote from Rohe came back to me today while at the Run Noosa half marathon. My brother, who is a relatively recent reconversion to running, was talking with me after our races about various aspects of running – the joyful moments, the tough slogs, the constant small wins and sense of personal achievement, the camaraderie at events such as races, and the scenery. While discussing the challenges and pain that runners often place on themselves, I shared the Fred Rohe quote.
So what value does running within your breath hold?
Running within my breath helps me to ‘find’ my breathing and focus on that instead of any straining to run faster or push myself up a hill etc. This is important as it relaxes me and makes it easier to find a rhythm – my rhythm. On days when I get this right I feel like I can keep running forever. My speed doesn’t matter, nor the distance. I do track them, but mostly because I am a bit OCD about that sort of thing probably, and not because they matter. Finding it hard to get up a hill? Run within your breath. Your stride will shorten, allowing you to take faster, smaller steps with less exertion. Struggling at a certain point if the run? Run within your breath. Allow your pace to slow for a short moment as you give yourself a mental and physical breather. You will be able to pick up the pace again soon after with greater energy.
By no means does this mean to never pant or sweat.
I don’t feel like I have exercised unless I have sweat! No, running within your breath is something all runners can do and understand, as they can identify when they are running ‘ahead of your breath’. This counterpoint is hard to describe, but very easy to feel. Play with balancing your stride and breathing and you will see what I mean.
I had a moment today during the half marathon when I was running slightly ahead of my breath. I took a couple of long slow breaths with my eyes closed as I let my legs and body fall into the rhythm of my run and found my energy again.
I PBed today, knocking 9 minutes off my previous half marathon best time.