Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chased by numbers

Es and I finally managed to get out for a run. And rather than the lactic ordeal trailing in Es's wake that I feared, we had a pleasant jog and natter around Burbage valley. On a side note that in itself was a big sign of progress for me as 2 months ago I wouldn't have been able to string a sentence together while running more than 10 minutes. More interestingly we got talking about numbers.

One of the reasons I got into climbing and stopped running as a teenager, was that a good day in athletics seemed always to be measured in numbers not actual experience. Usually that number was 1, with first being the only position worth talking about. The only other measure of quality of experience was your PB or whether you could set a new personal best time. Whether you'd enjoyed the wind on your face or that surge of euphoria as you rushed downhill was irrelevant. When I discovered climbing for myself, suddenly where you were and who you were with became major ingredients of a good day out. I knew I'd found a way of life more rewarding for me.

Of course quantifying experience with numbers is all pervasive through climbing as well; E this, ABO that, Font who knows what? But despite this there are plenty of opportunities for a wider appreciation of the activity from the kinaesthetics of individual moves through the flow of a good redpoint to the ambiance of the great cliffs. On some of my best days climbing I've actually achieved very little ascent or scored very low in terms of numbers, such as times Ive walked into the Triple Buttress on Beinn Eighe in winter with conditions not on for harder stuff. But without climbing as the an objective I wouldn't have found myself in these places.

This summer with a brief dalliance with sports climbing Ive found myself getting sucked back into number chasing. Saved from that by blowing my tendon I'm now having to check myself from heading down the same road with running. It seems road running perhaps more than anything is the home of the stopwatch and the PB. With my first 10k race on Sunday there's no denying that I have specific times that I'd like to achieve but I'm trying to keep reminding myself that there were a lot more reasons that I started running than a string of 4 numbers.

Alongside the weight loss (Ive lost 3/4 stone in 2 months - more numbers!) and less obsessing on my damaged finger, the key thing for me has been discovering again that feeling of flow when you get into your run. A feeling of lightness, rhythm and euphoria. Es described the best bits of his extreme runs similarly but with the added fulfilment of the sheer audacity of bouncing along the tops of something as dramatic as the Skye Ridge. When I'm clinging onto my race pace this Sunday, hopefully I'll be able to appreciate a few of those moments and ignore the numbers for a while.

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