Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Running Like a Rabbi

Most of what we call pain and suffering is relative and normally subjective.

There's an old Jewish story where a man living with his wife in a small apartment learns that his wife's sister is going to move in with them. The man goes to his rabbi to ask for help saying the apartment is too small and there isn't any room for the sister-in-law. The rabbi tells him that what he needs to do is not only embrace his sister-in-law but to invite his two cousins from out of town to stay with him. The story continues with each week the man complaining to his rabbi that too many people are in his home and the rabbi advising him to invite more people into his apartment. After two months the apartment has various relatives, a homeless guy, five dogs and eight cats, a visiting salesman and two other travelling rabbis. Just as the home is about to burst and the man is about to lose his mind the rabbi gives him one last piece of advice. "Tell everyone to leave except your wife and your sister-in-law". The next week after all the animals and various people have left the rabbi sees the man and asks him how everything is with just his wife and sister-in-law living there. "It's like pure heaven!" replies the man, "never been better!"

Welcome to the world of interval training.

I've recently been incorporating speed interval training and hill intervals into my weekly runs. Like the Jewish man in the story having trouble going from just two people in the apartment to three (living with the sister-in-law) I've had problems going from 13km per hour on the treadmill to 13.5km per hour for any length of time. But in interval training I've been pushing myself to run at 15km per hour and even 17km per hour for short bursts - almost like inviting the Jewish man's house guests round just for one night. After running at 17km per hour running at 13.5km seems like a rest from really running hard!

Running up a hill at 13.5km per hour makes running on the flat at the same speed seem like a walk in the park  (well a very fast walk where "walking" really means running).

I think mentally, physically and even emotionally we adjust to our circumstances, our muscles cope and our pain threshold increases. If the rabbi had told the man to have all his relatives and random guests move in the next day after he'd complained the man would not have coped. Instead the rabbi introduced more house guests gradually. I know I have to increase my speed intervals and hill intervals gradually but each time I go back to either running on the flat, or only running slightly faster than I'm used to, it seems so much easier.

All the world famous marathon runners right now seem to be from east Africa but maybe they could run even faster if they asked the advice of a rabbi. I know it definitely helps me.

The picture today is of me feeling pain and suffering 35km into a marathon, in the Jewish story this would be close to the point where the homeless guy has just moved in.

(The original version of this blog post appears on the audio diary )

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