What’s Your Pleasure?

SOMEONE ASKED ME RECENTLY WHAT PLEASURE I DERIVE while running. Not pleasure *from* running, like “I stay fit” or “it sure feels good when I stop,” but what is enjoyable about the actual act of running. Until a couple of months ago, my answer would have been, “When I experience some, I’ll let you know.” I’ve certainly read about the “runner’s high” but I haven’t yet experienced it in the three years I’ve been logging my miles. But a strange thing has happened, which I described in my June 29 post. I’ve actually begun to feel good during a run.

My Saturday morning long runs are now up to 16 miles, as I ramp up training for the Chicago Marathon. For the first 8 miles I usually feel uplifted and energized, and it’s difficult to remain at my assigned long run pace (8:30 to 9:00 per mile). My cadence is smooth, I’m breathing easy, and there’s a feeling of well-being throughout my body. That changes at about mile 10, and miles 12 through 16 are a real grind physically and mentally. I think part of this is due to pushing my body to new distances, and partly to a need to “refuel” around the 12-mile mark, which I need to do more regularly.

My speed work, on the other hand, while necessary, doesn’t usually involve much in the way of pleasure. Wednesday night, for example, was a 6-mile tempo run with miles 2, 3, and 5 at a challenging pace for me (around 7:00 per mile). Although it was a perfect evening for running, I was a bit tired and not sure I could hit my target pace. The sequence of emotions went pretty much like this:

– Mile 1: Worry about miles 2 and 3
– Miles 2 and 3: Run hard and suck wind
– Mile 4: Worry about mile 5
– Mile 5: Run and suck
– Mile 6: Relief it’s over. Regain breath and easy jog back to store. (Hey, wait a minute…am I feeling good here?)

My post-run analysis gives me two additional reasons to feel good about the effort. I put together consecutive miles at a sub-7:00 pace (6:43 and 6:53) for the first time, and I have now run more miles this year already than I did all of last year (573 vs. 567). The feeling of accomplishment doesn’t directly address my friend’s question, but I’ll take it.

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