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Friday, June 15, 2012

If you never try, then you'll never know.

that's right, I quoted Coldplay. Tough.

So after my last race one of my club mates asked me a simple question that I wasn't able to answer.

The question:
How do you run a fast last lap in a track race? I just don't know how you do it...
has made me spend some time thinking about my answer, and to form an answer I had to spend time actually thinking about why I was so successful at running fast at the end of a race. I had never heard his perspective, or at least thought about it from someone else's shoes, so when I began thinking about it, it became apparent the answer wouldn't be easy to elicit.

So what made me successful at running fast at the end of a race? Is it purely training? Mental ability? Drive? Reckless disregard? Fear?

It's probably a little bit of each of those, and other topics I didn't even list. But then I started thinking about how I handle pain, and I'm confident that my ability to manage pain plays a large part in my success at the end of a race.  To be truly successful in that last lap of a track race, you've got to be able to handle the level of discomfort needed to lay it all out. So I'm going to focus on the effect of pain, handling pain and the runner's ability to run a fast last lap.

Pain is a signal to the brain that we should stop a certain activity before we do any permanent damage. So logic dictates that if you feel pain, you should stop. That's exactly what I don't do. At what cost? Who knows, so far I haven't had any adverse effects (other than tight/sore muscles).

So now I'm wondering how pain levels work, and if it can be looked at in the same light as the speed of sound.  Take for example a supersonic air fighter. It crosses the sound barrier, and all of a sudden, you can't hear anything. Is it possible that the same thing happens with pain and the receptors within the body? Can we overload the brain to a point where it can no longer understand the pain signals, it cannot keep up with the deluge of signals, so that it just can't read any pain signals at all?

When I'm hammering away on my last lap, I don't ever remember feeling anything. I forget about my breathing. I forget about how much my lungs are burning. I forget about how heavy my legs get. I just run. Regardless of pain, I keep running. I push myself to see if I can handle just a little more pain...a little more....a little more....and what I've found is I don't ever get to a point where my body says "That's the end idiot, stop pushing".

And that's why I can run a fast last lap at the end of a track race.

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