Gazelles, or learning from the professionals

I was flicking channels on Sunday morning, and came across the Melbourne Marathon broadcast. I love watching the fast people. I’m not one of the fast people, and I am comfortable enough with that to say that even with some serious effort, I probably still won’t be fast. I’ll be faster, yes, but I won’t be one of them. The human gazelles.

You know what I mean. They have this way of running that I just can’t emulate. In my head I’m flying into the finish, but if you look at a photo of me, I’m moving like Cliffy Young, shuffling into the outskirts of Melbourne. Actually, I lie, I can think of one photograph of me flying into the finish, and I’m half in the air, but I’m all stiff arms and tension. They seem to float.

There is a percentage that is genetics. They have that innate ability; from the second they had the coordination to run, they ran, and ran beautifully. You and I don’t have that ability, but to be fair to them, it’s not just genetics. They have something else; they have that drive to be the best. To not just be a runner, but to compete. To win.

To win they have to train. Some are professional runners so technically they get paid to train. They have sponsorship, which they need because if you want to be that fast you need to train all the time, so they usually can only hold down a part time job. If they use social media (it seems rare for a professional runner to not; probably a sponsorship obligation) you see them train every day. It highlights that whilst they may appear to have won the genetic lottery, they still have to put in effort. It’s not an easy ride. But when they run, they’re gazelles.

I’ve been reading a few blogs here and there and following a few Instagram accounts of professional runners and very talented amateurs, more for amusement’s sake than anything – I laugh when I read that someone finished the final kilometre of their 10km run at 3m30s pace. The best I’ve run a 1km time trial was 4m15s, and it took a goodly while afterwards before I decided I probably wouldn’t actually throw up.

When I volunteer at parkrun I love to watch the fast people come into the finish. They’re not Jess Trengove or Kelly Hetherington fast, but they’re a damn sight faster than me. We don’t have a finish funnel – we don’t have enough participants to warrant one yet – so the frontrunners bolt through the finish line and shoot straight past the finish token volunteer. Most times I’ve had to wander over with a finish token to an exhausted heavy breathing finisher, bent double or sprawled on the grass. You’ll get another 6-8 runners come through before the first finishers can see straight enough to go to the barcode scanner with their athlete barcode.

I just simply can’t be green with envy jealous of the gazelles. They diligently train, and when they race or run parkrun, they put everything out there.

Me? I just run.

These past two weeks of frighteningly early morning pilates classes are making me aware of what I don’t do – gosh it’s a lot. The only way I’m particularly body conscious is that I know I weigh about 77kg at the moment and probably ought to be closer to 70-71kg. If you ask me when I run whether I use a particular muscle or move a particular way I’m oblivious. I don’t really tend to use my foam roller unless something makes itself wildly obvious. Countless times I’ve arrived at work in the morning and remembered I’d completely forgotten to foam roller a particular troublespot the previous evening. I honestly thought about buying a foam roller to leave at work, except that would mean we would then own four (we have one regular, one Rumble Roller and one shortened hollow one that goes well in suitcases), which seems a bit over the top, even for us.

If my muscles are stiff, they’re stiff. If something aches, it aches. I adapt to whatever happens – it becomes my new normal. Which I suspect is part of my problem; because I don’t seek to rectify a situation, it becomes a chronic issue. Right now, I still have slightly sore calf muscles, because last Monday (nine days ago now) my workplace had a fire drill and I had to walk down 20+ flights of stairs. Have I done something about it? Not really. Just some half-assed foam rolling that didn’t seem to work. What I think I need to do is go get a massage, but that’s not my normal, so I haven’t.

A while ago I came to the (not very) startling conclusion that if a professional runner does something; like getting regular massages, foam rolling, pilates, etc, it’s not completely wanky for an amateur runner like me to do something like that too.

I just need to follow through.

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