Smatterings of rest

Resting on a bench...
Resting on a bench…

Because rest is greatly feared and underrated by endurance runners everywhere…

An excerpt from the book:

“Somewhere along the way, on the trails or roads where we run and train and race, in our sport that knows no seasonal bounds, a time to rest will arrive, acknowledged or not. Even the iron-willed runners, those people whose names you seem to see or read about on every page of results in UltraRunning or online or in local newspapers, must pause or else slowly start the inevitable downward spiral caused by physical fatigue and emotional burnout. That pause can come, maybe ought to come, with the season’s turning; the opportunity for that pause is a gift of winter.

Pausing to rest seems so foreign to us, but each and every one of us, from the leaders racing down from Hope Pass or across No Hands Bridge to those who wander trails and byways barely beating cutoffs, eating more brownies than gels, naming animals and plants as they extend conversations over hill and dale, can benefit from reduced levels of effort.

Rest has never meant becoming the protectorate of the couch; it only means decreasing the effort level, changing the emphasis from one of continual challenge to one where aching joints and muscles finally get to quit cringing from inner voices talking about an upcoming race or one more fartlek or one last mile in an all-out sprint down the hill.

Believing in rest, its need and its benefits, is not easy for us. The discussions over taper—two weeks or three—are related to our fear that fitness will go flying out the door if we don’t go out that same door, shoes laced and intentions serious. My first serious encounter with rest was as the Avenue of the Giants Marathon approached. It was my first year of running, my third marathon—the second having been just three weeks earlier. My legs were dead. My mind was shot. While the latter is not unusual, the former was troublesome. What could be wrong? I thumbed through my then-meager library of running books, finally finding some thoughts on rest.

Whoa! I could rest completely for the next four or five days and still be able to run a marathon? Right, yeah, sure. Aching knees helped with the decision. A mile or two of beach walking on the way to the redwoods and another mile or two amongst the giants was the most I did that week. I don’t know if it was the magic of running beneath their limbs and branches or if it was the rest, but the marathon went well that Saturday morning, capping a week with five days of no running. I extended this idea to a week or so of walking, some shuffling, maybe a little jogging, but no running as the following winter passed. I slowly learned (high skull-thickness factor) that rest was okay, was useful, was maybe even important, a tool to be included in the training toolbox.”

—–Run gently out there—–