January 8th 2018
Today I ran a blind 5km race. By that I don’t mean that I ran a 5km race whilst blind or blindfolded, by that I mean I ran a 5km race without looking at my watch. Let me explain…
Every month there’s a 5km race at work, yada yada, running… right? My goal for the year is to run that 5km race in under 20 minutes, but my goal for today was to run it in 22:30. A 4:30 min/km pace would be pretty good considering I haven’t ran in a month.
The problem was that it was fucking cold today. Like, really cold. I even had a long-sleeve thermal top on and I was still cold. My thumbs were coldest. To counter-act my cold thumbs, I pulled my thermal top all the way over my hands, and tucked my thumbs inside the sleeves at the start line. It was even colder just standing around, but having my sleeves down helped somewhat.
The problem was that with my sleeves rolled all the way down, it meant that I couldn’t see my watch… because the sleeves covered it… you see? I’m sure you do.
Anyway, instead of succumb to cold hands I decided to just run the 5km race without looking at my watch. (I probably should have mentioned before now that it is a GPS running watch, not just a Casio or some shit). So, with my sleeves rolled down over my watch, I had no real way of knowing how fast I was going. It was the first time in over a year that I’d been for a run without habitual checking my watch every ten metres.
It was oddly refreshing.
Naturally, with no way of knowing the speed at which I was running, I ended up going too fast on the first two kilometres. Although, to be fair, I usually end up doing that even in normal circumstances. The first couple of kilometres felt fast, but one of the ideas behind running ‘blind’ and without the watch was that it would let my body dictate the speed, and not my mind.
Truthfully, I don’t really know what my body is capable of because I’m such a neurotic runner. I reach 4:00 min/km and think ‘this is too fast, I can’t sustain this’, but that’s my mind telling me that, not my legs. So today I let my legs do the thinking, and I just carried on running.
Of corse, I noticeably slowed down half way through because my legs were under-thinking it. And then I picked it up a bit for an almost sprint finish. The first time I looked at my watch was when I crossed the finish line.
Almost miraculously, my time was 22:30 – exactly what I’d set out to achieve at the start of the race. Indeed, my kilometre-splits were somewhat more erratic than I’d been aiming for, but the time was bang on correct. And it almost felt… easier.
I’m a great believer that at least 50% of running is mental. For me, at least. Yes, you have to have the physicality and the physiology for it, but you also need the psychology. You need your brain to be able to tell your legs to carry on even if your legs don’t want to. Or you need your legs to tell your brain to shut up when your brain tells you you can’t go any faster.
There’s a balance between the two. And today I tricked myself into fighting the mental part of it, and relied solely on the physical.
Until tomorrow, let your legs see for you.