Last weekend I returned to my home town of Prince George and participated in the 17-mile Labour Day Classic, a small local run that is as old as I am. Going into it I knew that there was a chance that I could win, and win I did! For the first half, I kept to a fast but comfortable pace of just under 4:00 min/km and took the lead early on. For the second half, my goal was just to keep my lead. I slowed down just a bit because my legs were getting tired, but just two miles before the finish I heard some rapid footfalls coming up behind me and had to build up my speed until they gradually faded away. I finished with a 17 second lead at 1:50:20.
The real winner, as far as I am concerned, was Brian Nemethy who ran the 8.5 mile race in 51:05. That time is impressive, yes, and even more so when you consider that 51 minutes means a speed of 10 miles per hour. He must have set that pace for himself, I'm sure that in his mind he wasn't racing against anyone else. I'm only able to keep that pace for half that distance, and he's my senior by more than a decade.
On my way back to Calgary, I stopped at Mt. Robson Provincial Park to do a trail run to the far end of Kinney Lake and back again. This was a necessary break to stretch my legs, which do not particularly like long drives after a hard run. Running through the forest is absolutely the best kind of running. I really should add trail races to my schedule, so far I haven't participated in any because it is necessary to register for them so far in advance (they always have strict caps, and they are insanely popular around here).
This particular trail run at Mt Robson had a huge payoff. I usually feel best running at my 4:00 pace, and on this day running slower than that aggravated my knee a bit (after all, I had just raced 17 miles the day before). So I wondered, what was the difference between running fast and running slow? I must be landing differently if my knee reacts differently. I tried a little experiment, and landed with my foot a little bit behind its usual landing position — suddenly the twinge in my knee disappeared. Now I know how to run at any pace, slow or fast, without straining my joints! The experts always say that a toe landing is ideal, but in truth that advice is such a gross simplification of running mechanics that, on its own, it is nearly useless. My advice is to run for a couple years, listen to your legs, and experiment a little bit. When you find your perfect footstrike, you will feel it. Then change your pace and find it again. Change the terrain and find it yet again. Try it again with an old, worn-out pair of shoes. Uphill and downhill. You see where I'm going with this? My heavens, thinking about it makes me want to go for a run right now…