Friday, April 16, 2010

Breaking Through

I have been reading a book called "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. It is a fascinating physiological, anthropological, and historical love story about running. It's primary focus is on an ancient tribe of Native Americans called the Tarahumara. The Tarahumara have been described as being the greatest distance runners in the world, routinely running 100 mile races, without becoming injured or burning out. I find this astonishing. They have no fancy running shoes, only homemade sandals. They live peaceful, simples lives, deep in the canyons of northern Mexico. Shy and retiring, they are uncomfortable around strangers. But when they run, look out! The book describes how they blew away the competition in the Leadville 100 ultra race, and they did it in style. They ran together as a pack, and the older runners outpaced the younger ones. How is that possible?? I had always heard that running breaks down the body, but the Tarahumara defy that assessment.

At this point, I would consider just running a 5K to be the ultimate personal achievement. Nevertheless, I am fascinated by what makes these ultra runners tick. How do you muscle through a run that's several hours long, and live to tell about it? Well, the answer is, you don't muscle through, you breakthrough.

In McDougall's book, he talks about it this way:

"[Y]ou have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it. Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget you're moving. And once you break through to that soft, half-levitating flow, that's when the moonlight and champagne show up[.]"

Personally, I have not had that breakthrough. I've yet to build up the speed or endurance to experience moonlight or champagne, but based on that description, I can see why people get hooked on running. Definitely something to look forward to...

And the advice about relaxing into the run makes so much sense. I think it pertains to life in general, too: getting all tensed up about things is a waste of energy. Relax, let go, and go with the flow. Maybe there will be breakthroughs all over the place!

God Bless, and be well. And run like you stole something! ;)

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