Did you ever have a run that felt effortless? Have you ever noticed how easy it looks for the elite runners and wished you could look and feel that way too? This is as close as it gets…
I am talking about one of those runs where you really felt like a runner? A run that might have started out as a three-miler, but you stretched it out to four or five because you felt so good? I call these runs “Breakthrough Runs.”
It takes a long time for a “Breakthrough Run” to actually happen. For a newbie runner, this might occur for the first time a few weeks after initially picking up the sport. Prior to that, your first several runs might be torture. It is torture “during the run”…breathing is nearly impossible, your lungs and muscles are on fire. You might have to stop here and there to walk. It is torture “after the run” as well. Your quads discover what lactic acid is for the first time, and stretching is so painful, you doubt whether or not you’ll stick with running.
However, something happens if you decide to stick with it: The cadence of your breathing and pacing slowly improves. You still might be hunched over at the end of a workout, but running is not total torture anymore. Your muscles become less sore and adapt to your new-found activity. Your runs might still be difficult …until that one run.
“Until that one run”…a run in which you feel as if you can “go” forever. At the end of such a run, you actually feel the need to tell someone about it. The Breakthrough Run is a rare and wonderful thing. It boosts our energy, and motivates us to continue participating in this wonderful sport.
This feeling is not limited to new runners. Those of us who have had an injury know what it’s like to start running again after a layoff…after a doctor has recommended the one word a runner never wants to hear: “Rest.” These initial runs can be even more torturous because you know what your fitness level was before the injury. You know what the Breakthrough Run feels like, and you want to feel it again.
So, after countless impatient thoughts and with some trepidation, you start up again after your “rest” period. It takes several runs to rid yourself of the worry that the injury might return: “Is my hip pain really gone for good?” Once these thoughts disappear, you slowly get back to feeling like a runner. You eventually have that effortless run again. You eventually “break through” again.
If you’re lucky, a Breakthrough Run can even occur during a race. This may happen if you’ve trained for a PR in addition to training for a finish. Sometimes the weather helps with such a run. Perhaps the race occurs on a crisp autumn morning, on a day when the summer humidity is gone for good. The stars align for you.
You check the mile splits, and you’re pleasantly surprised, not only about the pace, but also at how good you are feeling. Your stride feels automatic. That PR might just happen after all. At the finish line, you’re exhausted yet satisfied. You’ve run your fastest race. You have once again “broken through.”
A Breakthrough Run does not occur every time you lace up your sneakers. It can be fleeting and elusive, but when you have one, you know it. Such a run helps us forget our “problematic runs.” It can even help us say “goodbye” to a rut. The Breakthrough Run reminds us of the many reasons why we love running.