Knowing When To Stop

Competitive running drives me to analyse Strava downloads, prepare demanding training routes and try to better previous course or distance times. I suspect most runners are the same. But is it appropriate to briefly stop and fully absorb what we are doing while we are actually doing it?  At the end we all collapse over the finish line and wait for the endorphins to effervesce to the surface. And then there’s the bottle-neck at the ladder stile or maybe even the halfway water station. Some runners don’t even stop and run through injury to avoid a DNF.  Me?  Guilty?  Well maybe.  Still, away from this, do you ever just slow to a halt, take a breathe, to observe the amazing activity that we undertake, not to mention the special places it takes us to?

Last Saturday, I’d perspired for almost 5 miles on tarmac, across tussocks, through bog and beck, and over boulders; I’d been here before. Somehow, this was different. Firstly, the weather was more benign. No winds blowing me sideways or backwards. Visibility was much better too, and the natural light was pure and provided excellent contrast. Also, there wasn’t a cacophony of urban noise – in fact there was hardly any noise; except for the distant pant of a runner with hands on hips, or the muffled applause from a route marshal.

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The grass slopes steepened and a rock face appeared overhead. The summit of the climb was near. But I suddenly felt compelled to stop. And take it all in – the view, achievement, landscape, geology. It wasn’t an epiphany or spiritual; I just felt that I needed to soak up the atmosphere. And I was also bloody knackered so needed a break.

Yes, I took a few photos. But importantly, I knew exactly what they’d show before I actually downloaded them. The brief 1-2 minute pause allowed me to recharge the senses. Then, at the finish, I was able to share this experience with others: “View? I was focusing too much on where my feet were landing…” I hope that runner gets another opportunity to return. Next time they’ll maybe see a need to stop for a moment. And not just at the finish line.

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