The harder you train, the more you get the Spirit… it gains on you… those minutes of sweetness: speed and ease, force and grace. It is pure happiness.” – Geoffrey Mutai/Ed Caesar
Popular running culture tends to reflect the beliefs and priorities of the era that generates it. A decade ago, the reigning champion of the genre was the natural/minimalist running movement. I love the fact that natural running connects us to the legacy of East African and Native American runners, particularly those who grew up running barefoot. But minimalism isn’t limited to the shoes on your feet.
The type of minimalism that I teach is a timeless idea that has been around for a quite long time. It has to do with significantly reducing the muscular energy expended while running and the pounding on the body that occurs as a result of unnecessary, constant tension as well as the misapplication of effort resulting in loss of form and overtraining. My system is very easy to communicate and it helps people discover the science of running in their own personal experience.
In our current era of non-stop technological innovation, what they’re selling is metrics. It’s no longer enough to train our way to a better state of body and mind. We must now chart our progress, count our steps, log our sleep rhythms, tweak our diets, record our negative thoughts, then analyze the data, recalibrate, and repeat. Measuring things is easy but it’s only useful when it creates positive lasting changes in our form, fitness, and self-confidence.
While meticulous planning, scientific testing, and monitoring all have their place they can’t give us a complete picture of our true, innate running ability. By over-focusing on tangible physiological benchmarks, we often overlook the intangibles: the psychological, spiritual, and even mystical factors (all very much at play every time we have a great run!) that allow us to tap into our latent energies and unlock our hidden potential.
Which brings me to a burning question that very much needs to be answered: With the influx of more and more scientific training, wearable technology, modern lifestyles, and dietary habits, why have average marathon times declined so drastically in this millennium? The only exceptions are the elite and sub-elite athletes, especially the women! And reciprocally, why do so many ultras have such a high dropout rate, with close to half the field regularly failing to finish in a lot of races?
Psychologists talk about a Zen-like state of instinctual action in which the greatest sporting performances are attained. They call it Flow. It is delicate, intimate and ephemeral. It arrives, it takes hold of you, sweeps you up and then leaves you again. It is for you alone. (1)
In order to run well you have to know you deserve to run well. You’ve got to know inside yourself that you’ve lived your life and trained properly for your goal; that you deserve to be running well in your race. Then you get the Spirit. You feel a spontaneous flow of confidence in that moment and you know that’s where you deserve to be.
(1) Two Hours, the Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caesar