There are probably several kinds of "zones", the long run zone, the "I'm running in a beautiful place" zone, the powerful run zone, running with friends zone...but here I want the talk about the "racing" zone - for me, it's quite like no other... and it doesn't happen every race (some races I am quite well aware of every tiny detail, every painful moment)... It is a truely heightened state of being... when everything comes together... that feeling (or "no feeling") – the moment you become your sport, you “are” running… that’s living the dream, that's what I work so hard for, and it only comes around every so often…
1. When you've trained consistently and running is something that you "practice"
2. Your mental state is at it’s best – alert but relaxed and you don’t let it interfere with your body’s potential
3. You have enough competition to make you work hard
4. You trust everything – your training, your body, your coach and just the "let run come to you"
5. You train your mind to stay in the moment - with little concern for "the outcome", and focus on the here and now of the run.
The image of me running my most recent 5km time trial, for me, captures the feeling of being in "the zone" - just something about the blur and the focus on my face...and indeed, that afternoon I wouldn't have even known the photo was being taken - I was in that heightened state you only get when everything comes together... and I ran a huge PB (I'm still is absolute shock!). This is how it happened...
Lately, I’ve just been following my plan doggedly, without question and trusting it, getting it done. And I’ve been working harder than ever. Lots of shorter runs, the same kind of weekly kilometres but fewer long runs. I’ve felt great as I haven’t had the fatigue of long runs – and I enjoy working hard/speed work.
Last week we had our run groups time trial afternoon. The middle of a three week build I wasn’t feeling my freshest! I had two runs the day before and a fartlek that morning – the chances of a great run were actually quite slim. So I didn’t think too much about it. I actually had Indian takeaway and a free can of soft drink (which I rarely drink!) for lunch with my husband. Very unusual. I was nervous, but not anxious. I have learnt (with the help of several good coaches and mentors) that all you can give is what you have on the day, considering all the factors. Just do it, as they say.
I had a cup of tea, and got ready as usual. Red crop, my favourite fast colour. Usual training shoes, not flats – I’m still nervous about my foot injury resurfacing... Usual warm up, and black cockatoos flew over, always a good sign in my life. I smiled. This is what I love.
Ten laps of a 500m loop, and my coach said GO... my training partner took off on me (stealing my strategy!) and I tried to hold back a bit to settle at the pace we wanted to hold (while cursing him all the same)… and in amongst those first few thoughts I decided I would do this thing, and give it all I had. The first kilometer is always a relative breeze, then I felt the heavier breathing kick in, but surprisingly no loss of power, and I felt my legs pumping and all I could think was run, run, run – work hard, work hard, I’ve worked so hard. I didn’t look at my watch the entire run. I just kept on running like crazy, counting down the laps. It was like I put all my thoughts and concerns and worries and doubts into a vault – locked it and threw away the key – far, far away... and any negative thoughts were hidden where I couldn’t drag them out. They were shut in that vault, I didn’t hear one of them.
And I “was” running, I wasn’t me – I was what I was doing, I was a blank canvas for running to happen. I felt pain, but it was like a third person feeling, I felt things and I thought things but I didn’t judge them, they just were, thoughts and feelings. I was at one with my sport. At the same time I was flying, driving, soaring, working... and time stood still. And I loved every second. And I ran 50 seconds faster than our last 5k time trial. 18minutes and 40 seconds. I didn’t even know the outcome until it was all over. I wasn’t even thinking about the outcome, just each moment, each loop and letting my body do what it was capable of doing.
There is so much to this. Not thinking about outcomes. Finding the place of “no judgement” in your running and racing. Feeling but not thinking. Not letting your mind stand in the way of what your body can do. Trusting you are where you should be, accepting where you are at right this moment in your running. Getting to the point where this can happen takes practice... I’ve read so much on it, been advised by some great coaches, but you can’t “make” it happen, you truly have to trust, and let go of how you think things “should” be, stop “efforting” and stay in the moment of the run…
Something to think about anyway...
PS. thanks to all my running group team mates who finished their runs and stayed to cheer - kids and adults alike!