Meditative breathing

Out, Out, In. Out, Out.

Out, Out, In. Out, Out.

That’s my breathing pattern when I run. At least, that’s what I hear in my head. I’m conscious that there is an intake after each of those 5 beat rhythms but I don’t hear it – all I hear is “huh huh heer huh huh”.

I didn’t realise how important the way I breathe was until today. We were running in one of the regular Masters Athletics Western Australia Sunday Runs. This one was at Herdsman Lake, and there was a 5km, 7.5km or 15km option. I’m doing the Perth Marathon next weekend in a relay with another woman, Tracy. She’s doing the first half, I’m doing the second half, which meant I needed a good long run this weekend to set me up for the 21.1 km next weekend, so the 15km option looked perfect.

Of course, I got a cold a week and a half ago, which has me well immured in the barrel of snot aftermath stage. I shot some spray decongestant up my nose before we left the house. That is usually sufficient for me at this point in a cold, and is enough to allow me to do most things, but today was not my day.

After the run briefing we set off around Herdsman Lake, and it is absolutely gorgeous around there. The path we took went from hardpacked white dirt and gravel to tarmac to mulch-like path and back. In the last part of the 7.5km circuit you looped through the bush four times, running through a small forest of paperbark trees.

I ran with Jeremy and I immediately found it difficult – it felt like we were going too fast, and after a short period I requested that we slow down some. We did, and it got a bit easier, but our average pace kept getting slower and slower. I realised I needed to blow my nose, but didn’t have any tissues on me, and I wasn’t prepared to blow my nose on my hand and wipe it on the grass. I just ran along like a major mouth breather, and struggled on. As we headed on through the third loop Jeremy asked me whether I was going to continue on the second lap. I said that I wasn’t sure, but I’d decide at the Pony Clubrooms that were coming up and which was where the toilets were and therefore somewhere I could blow my nose. I then said because I needed to go further I’d probably slowly run out to the 5km option turnaround point and re-do the loops once I got back to the start, and that he could continue on.

He headed off, speeding up, and I ran slowly round the pony club paddock to the loos to blow my nose. Glory be, it was wonderful. The second I could breathe through my nose, I remembered the sound “huh huh heer huh huh”. That was what had been missing. Because I couldn’t get a rhythm going in my breathing, I was struggling.

I don’t tend to run with music, and when asked why I always recall the run that I spent three kilometres trying to find a song that I liked on my iPod and that it wasn’t until I switched it off that I realised that the music I wanted to listen to was silence. I realised today that that day I needed to hear me – my footfall, and my breathing. I need to run to my rhythm, not someone else’s.

The Pony Club was about 200 metres from the finish line for the 7.5 km, which marked where you continued on for the second lap if you did the 15 km. The clock read 47 minutes something, and I decided that it wasn’t a bad time, considering and that I would carry on. Had I known I probably would have stopped, but I didn’t so I pulled in, refilled my little handheld water bottle, and set off, requesting to some parkrunners to tell Jeremy that I was going to run my second lap.

I made it round to the water station at about the halfway mark. I’d stopped and blown my nose a few times, and just enjoyed the scenery; the number of black swans, coots and moorhens around Herdsman Lake is high. I also found out that not only do ibis make an odd hooting noise, they perch high up in trees. They look very ungainly, but they do perch. I told the water station marshals that it wouldn’t surprise me if I was the last runner. I kept on, probably for another kilometre and then at 11.91km my body said stop. So I stopped, and started to walk.

I was too tired; I think from running too fast at the beginning, and from not being able to breathe properly. Once I got to the roadside path, where the loops were about to start, I decided to shortcut the run, and skip the loop section, certain that I would cut at least a kilometre off my distance. My Masters Athletics number is attached to a racebelt, so I slid it high up under my shirt; if I was shortcutting, I wasn’t competing and therefore I was out of the race.

I managed to run again for a little stretch, but had to walk again, and left the path heading into the last loop, around the pony club paddock and towards the finish line. Jeremy met me just after the Pony Clubrooms and we walked back to the finish line. I avoided the finish funnel and spoke to one of the organisers. I’d been overtaken on the pathway by two female runners, and they’d reported in that they thought “there was one more runner out there in yellow shorts”. I advised that it was me, and that because I’d shortcutted I had pulled out of the race.

I managed 14.68 km, which is both good and bad – I’ve moved almost two thirds of the distance I need to run next Sunday, but considering the set course was 15 km, I only managed to shortcut 320 metres, so if I’d done the loops at walking pace I’d have one more race on the board with Masters Athletics. A terrible time, but it would be a run on the board.

I’m not disappointed with my run though; I ran as much as I could, I stopped when I recognised that I needed to stop, and I saw an ibis, awkwardly perched in a tall tree, hooting.

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