5km: a nice distance

Twice this week I’ve heard myself say ‘5km is a nice distance’. The first time was in a conversation about running while lying down at the Bristol Sports Medicine clinic having my knee ‘mobilised’. The second was to a friend who was deciding whether to take part in race for life this year. The osteopath agreed with me and my friend replied ‘that’s easy for you to say’. Her response made me pause. Was I being insensitive to her? What did I mean by nice? Note: This isn’t a Murakami attempt to talk about running. It’s an attempt to talk about what I talk about and I’ll briefly stretch out a metaphor about running.

For me, the 5km distance is apportioned out in the following way. The first 500 metres are spent feeling each pace on the ground and just noticing the impact. Right foot, right knee (weak IT band, irritated ligament), left foot, left ankle (sometimes weak), left achilles heel injury seven years ago, left knee, stomach muscles, stitch? body working ok?  fine. The next kilometre is usually unfocused and I get swept along by music or by thoughts. By 1.6 to 1.8 km I’m in fidgety, distracted mode and everything starts to annoy me. My hair falls in my eyes, my skin starts to itch, my bra strap slips, my top starts to chafe my neck and I try to remain aware of all these irritations while at the same time ignoring them.

I don’t actually start to feel like I’m running properly until 3km and I can then drop away everything and go back to focusing on each foot hitting the ground and counting my breaths. I count to ten and then back from the start, over and over. By the end of 5km I feel like I’ve had a brief meditative experience, I’ve enjoyed my run and I’ve let go of daily distractions – not in that order.

That’s what I mean when I say 5km is a nice distance. I don’t often stop at that point in my running but I haven’t been out there for a couple of weeks and at the moment it sounds wonderful. Now what about 10km? Hmm…

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