(This is 50th anniversary of my first article in Runner’s World magazine. All year I post excerpts from my book, This Runner’s World.)
February 1996 (retitled in the magazine). Journalists fancy ourselves as Seekers of Truth. But we often find “true” to be an elusive quality. We search in vain for the one truly right form of training or the one truly great shoe.
I’ve run – and written – just short of forever. And I still edit my training plans and still seek the perfect shoes. The never-ending search can be as exciting as any final discovery.
But runners also need some certainty, and the sport offers solid truisms to cling to while we seek the big and slippery truths. These truisms aren’t my discoveries. They reveal themselves to anyone who runs long enough. For instance:
The hardest step in any run is the first one out the door… You never know how a run will go until you’ve gone at least a mile… The real running begins after a half-hour warmup, and the run starts to seem like a second job after an hour.
Training courses are usually shorter than you want to believe… Runners round times down and round distances up… Time doesn’t pass at a constant rate; the harder the run, the longer a minute seems to last.
You never make up running downhill what you lose going uphill; same with tailwinds and headwinds… Even if you believe in walking breaks, you’re embarrassed to be seen taking them… You can’t run past a store window without sneaking a peak at yourself.
A ”jogger” is someone who runs slower than you do… Fitness is a stage you pass through on the way to becoming a “real runner” who no longer settles for merely staying fit… Drivers don’t see road runners smile because we’re too busy concentrating on not getting run over.
Once your search for the “perfect shoe” leads to the model you like, it will go off the market before you can buy another pair… Sports drinks and energy bars only taste good when you need them most… If you feel warm enough at the start of a run, you’re overdressed and will soon overheat.
Most running injuries aren’t accidental but are self-inflicted… Most injuries will respond to the treatment you least want to use: stopping the running that caused them… Racing a long distance on a hard surface at a fast pace is an unnatural act, which never stopped anyone from doing it.
If you aren’t scared before a race, you should worry that you aren’t ready… You’ll never find a port-a-potty without a waiting line on race day… No matter how fast you run your race, someone, somewhere will always be faster.
No matter how slow you go in this race, someone will be slower; you can’t finish last no matter how hard you try… “Official” times are rarely accurate, which is why you start your own watch when you cross the starting line… Races don’t feel worst at the end, but in the middle third where when the start and finish both seem so far away.
It’s more fun to pass than to be passed late in a race, which is another reason to start slowly… Your fastest races feel the easiest, because you trained for and paced them best… Not one runner in 10 can name any runner who finished in the top 10.
Most awards ceremonies last longer than the race they’re rewarding… You aren’t ready to run another race until you forget how bad the last one felt… If your mom says you look great, it means you’re overweight.
The older you get, the farther you once ran and the faster you once were… If you’d known when you were younger what you know now, you would have made different mistakes.
2018 Update. The truest truth might be that last one. No one can ever solves every puzzle.
[Many books of mine, old and recent, are now available in two different formats: in print and as ebooks from Amazon.com. The titles: Going Far, Home Runs, Joe’s Team, Learning to Walk, Long Run Solution, Long Slow Distance, Miles to Go, Pacesetters, Run Right Now, Run Right Now Training Log, See How We Run, Starting Lines, and This Runner’s World, plus Rich Englehart’s book about me, Slow Joe.]