Learn to Run Part 5: If I only, um, didn’t have a brain…..
If the Tin-Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow had to engage in an ultra-marathon along the yellow-brick road, racing to reach the wiz, I’d have my dough on the Scarecrow every day of the week.
The Tin-Man, lacking a heart, would lack the necessary circulation of oxygenated blood and would fall over after a minute or so. The Lion, bereft of courage would drop his bundle at the bottom of the first hill and find a tree to sit under and sulk. The Scarecrow would then win by default against this meager competition. But he would be unlikely to lament on this (remember he doesn’t have a brain), he would just run.
I wish I was like the Scarecrow sometimes. Damn my brain, and its monumental, fundamental design fault- it has no ‘off’ switch!
This flaw was truly evident to me during last week’s 34km Sea to Summit race in Adelaide (yes I realise it is not a marathon, yet alone an ultra!!).
I’d had a bit of, you could say, digestive trouble between the 10km and 20km marks which restricted my running pace (running with a cramping bowel is not conducive to speed!) and I was also diverging off the track in hunt of a public toilet, adding to the kms.
This condemned me to the knowing that my time from the previous year was well and truly beyond me, and that got me down a bit. I ran an long uphill section between the 20km and 27km marks very slowly, and with a pretty stinking attitude. My legs felt dead, my feet weighed a ton, and my posture slumped forward in dejection. I hated running during the drudgery of those kays, and the very encouraging competitors tapping me on the back, offering platitudes like, ‘keep going mate, there’s not long to go!’ didn’t help, thanks anyway though.
I was seriously contemplating pulling a lion at this point, by stopping and sulking under a tree.
I decided against this, and instead thought that it couldn’t hurt to chuck on some music on a shuffled playlist (I had my smart-phone and the wherewithal to pack headphones). Not long after, something strange started to happen.
It was the second song that came on, it had a driving beat and timely lyrics. My legs started to feel fresh, my feet light. My head became quiet and clear, and my posture opened. I started to accelerate.
Within no time I was sprinting past those encouraging souls from a few moments before, and ran so fast towards the drink station at the 30km mark that I nearly cannoned into it. The last 7km of my race were my fastest and resulted in me getting quite close to my time from last year.
I have told this story to a few people this week, and the common response has been, ‘yeah it is amazing what music can do hey?’ The music didn’t really do anything, bar a timely distraction from all the negativity I was creating. If anything it facilitated a change of perspective.
Why did I need music to achieve this? Why couldn’t the switch just be flicked? What I know is that there is not advantage in thinking negatively, so why do we fall into this trap so readily, especially under duress? Clearly I am not the Scarecrow, but as I continue my preparation for the Yurrebilla 56km mini-ultra I will continue to channel my inner Straw-Man, if I could only figure out how to do that!