I was out on an easy run recently, one of those runs that we all do when our minds wander. I was in a dream-like trance as I plodded along and could not tell you what was going through my mind. As I turned a familiar corner a couple of miles from home I subconsciously chopped my stride, the reason for which, at the time, was unknown to me. About 30 metres later I noticed a familiar obstruction in the path. It’s nothing too bad, it’s a chunk that has been taken out of pavement but it has to be thought about and if you don’t know it’s there or don’t see it in time you will more than likely take a little stumble. I didn’t break stride as I negotiated the little mini-hazard without any trouble. I thought to myself ‘What a stroke of luck that I didn’t have to change my stride pattern….’
It made me think about how much we, as runners, know our streets. We know how to negotiate all the tight turns; we know where all the raised paving stones are; we know how far it is from the chip shop to the garage. We know how long it takes us to get from certain points on a run to another. It would be safe to say that we own the streets. I didn’t break stride on that occasion because I knew that the hole in the ground was there, without even realising it. The knowledge that runners build up over years of running around the streets is invaluable. We know where to run, where not to run. We know routes through paths and tracks and shortcuts that would be the envy to any local taxi driver.
Last week I planned to run about 4 miles, I say ‘about’ as it didn’t really matter that much. I’m getting back from injury and am only jogging 2 or 3 times a week at the moment so it didn’t matter that much if it was 3.8 miles or 4.3 miles. As long as I got around my loop at about 8 minute mile pace I would be satisfied. I thought about where I would run and worked out, what I thought, would be an approximate 4 miles. I wore my Garmin GPS watch but purely for reference and curiosity, as soon as I had started the watch I wouldn’t look at it again until I finished. It wasn’t until about an hour after I finished the run that I checked my Garmin. It was 3.98 miles in 31.57 mins! This wasn’t good fortune, I don’t have an unnatural ability to map out courses in my head and predict how long they are, I don’t have great pace judgment. It’s simply down to the fact that I know my streets, I know how far it is from my house to the local park as I’ve ran up that road a hundred times. I know how long it takes me to run through the dene and back past the allotments, I know the streets, I own the streets.
The next time you intend to do an easy run where the distance doesn’t really matter, do what I did. Plan the route in your head, wear your GPS watch but don’t look at it while you are running (if you don’t own a Garmin then map your route after your run on one the numerous websites that are available) and see how close you get. I think you will be surprised.
Remember, you know your streets better than anyone, runners own the streets…