Running in Circles

On my Strava feed this week I noticed a couple of us were running in circles. Katie was hitting the track for her weekly session.

“I seriously hate speedwork,” she says. “It took me all summer to figure out how to do a speed workout and it appears I’m going through the learning process all over again. My coach told me it’s all in my head and to go the opposite direction next week! Haaaa. I did learn to really embrace it during the summer but dang…It’s a humbling thing for me. At least the intervals keep the monotony at bay and time seems to pass by quickly. 🙂 Plus all the days of struggle pay big dividends in upcoming races!”

For our next issue, we’ll get into some basic track workouts, but there’s no real mystery to it. Essentially, just do a warmup, then do an interval of one lap at a fast pace you can manage with some but not full-out strain for a full lap, then walk or reallllly slowly jog the next lap for recovery, then do another fast lap, then recovery, etc. You’ll need a watch to time yourself on your fast lap. Do it, say, five or six times and then cool down and go hit the showers.

This week I did my own circular running. Actually it was more rectangular running as it’s a .6-mile dirt trail that traces the inside edge of the fence in McCarren Park. It’s flat as can be but the trail offers a nice soft landing for a sore ankle I’m nursing.

I enjoy the hypnotic effect of running the same loop over and over: On the opening lap, every time, I find myself doing some stutter steps for sticks and roots and dips and dog droppings, but as I keep looping I find the smooth traversing of these these little obstacles is very meditative. It forces you to focus: OK, there’s that big weird tree root coming up, aim to hit just there with the left foot and it’s no bother. I also had the fun experience of wordlessly buddying up with another runner that sometimes happens–on my last lap I passed a guy who was just starting his loops and he quickly fell into step behind me and wesilently pushed and pulled each other along at a fast clip for a full circle before I ducked out with a wave, to which he shouted, “Nice work!”

Another thing I like about closed-loop-running is that it offers freedom from cars, sidewalk traffic, street crossings, and so forth. Look for a little quarter- or half-mile loop in your neighborhood and make it your go-to getaway once a week. It’s not boring, it’s meditative. Let me change the word “sound” to “circular running” in this tidbit from a meditation site on the web about “Single Pointed Focus and Absorption”:

Concentration is another way to describe single pointed focus. To use CIRCULAR RUNNING as meditation, we start by concentrating on the CIRCULAR RUNNING, letting go of other mental distractions. If we maintain this concentration, the mind may become absorbed by the CIRCULAR RUNNING. Our awareness spreads throughout the CIRCULAR RUNNING until there is nothing else. That’s when an actual state of meditation begins.”