Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

I don’t know much about orbits – unless you’re talking about the 1990s fad soda that I so desperately wanted to drink/chew – but my limited planetary background tells me the world has started spinning faster.

From take-out dinners edging out home-cooked meals to online holiday shopping replacing an entire day at the mall to each subsequent Vin Diesel/Paul Walker masterpiece, everything in our accelerating modern environment appears to be happening ever faster. And, in the case of the latter, furiouser.

Of course, that’s not always a bad thing. Speed has a definite place in our lives, from plowing through Times Square at rush hour to clocking a new PR in a road race to fast-forwarding through that eternally painful Laura Linney/Karl-our-enigmatic-chief-designer make-out scene in Love Actually. No thank you, Richard Curtis. I’ll just skip ahead to the Portuguese proposal scene, thankyouverymuch.

But while speed has its advantages, there are at least a handful of situations where it’s worthwhile to slow down. New relationships, for example, or learning to drive, or when participating in Pamplona’s annual running of the goldendoodles. That’s one stampede where it pays to get caught.

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Tag, you’re it!

Slowing down is also crucial on the long-distance race course, as you may recall from volume two of things I wish I’d done differently during the NYC marathon.

But it’s equally – if not more – important in the days, weeks and even months after crossing that finish line.

If you’re anything like me, you took your marathon training pretty seriously for four solid months, from the tame Friday nights to the Saturday long runs to the daily all-you-can-eat bagel extravaganzas. Oh, that’s not supposed to be part of training until the final week? Whoops.

But while I was shockingly disciplined in the months leading up to my race, I can’t say the same about recovery. By some coaches’ accounts, runners should plan one day of rest for each mile covered, meaning 26 days without a hard workout after crossing that finish line. Other experts go further still, recommending a day off for each kilometer, or 42 straight days of low-impact fitness post-race. Both sounded a bit extreme to me – heck, some people run back-to-back marathons each week – so I laced up three days after the race in an attempt to log a couple of miles and get my running back on track. I figured I’d run a few miles Wednesday, a few more Friday, and that I’d be back to double digits by Sunday afternoon.

Still in race mindset, I felt fully prepared to go out fast when it came to my recovery. My body, however, had different plans. Primarily, converting my knee caps into burning orbs of pain.

As I retuned home from those first four post-race miles and found myself suddenly unable to make it up my stairs without howling in agony, I quickly realized that I was not, in fact, immune to the strain that a marathon reportedly puts your muscles and joints through. That first run post-marathon left my knees reeling, and with ice and ibuprofen doing little to ease the pain, I was forced to do the one thing my barely recovered body was so desperately seeking: I slowed down. And not just for a day. These aching legs took off a solid week for the first time since 2011.

Forcing ourselves to slow down in today’s fast-paced world is always hard, and hanging up my running shoes during the first week of crisp fall weather was even crueler still. But I knew a week completely off running was what I needed to get back on track, so all belly-aching aside, I did it. And just in case I might be tempted to change my mind and sneak in a few miles, I hopped a plane to the most indulgent, run-free city on this side of the Mississippi: New Orleans.

I’m not going to lie – I packed running gear – but I never even laid hands on it the entire weekend in the Big Easy. The only running I did all trip long was up to the counter to pick up my beignets.

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Just kidding. They delivered them straight to my table.

My birthday trip to New Orleans was lazy and slothful and downright gluttonous, but it was also something else: just what my knees needed. I arrived back in the city yesterday with the hankering to run, and it felt just like it’s supposed to: pain-free, joyful and beignet-fueled.

It took a week away to know it for sure, but I’m finally starting to feel like I’m back.

How is your fall race recovery going? And more importantly, who is buying me this shirt for Christmas?

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One Response to Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

  1. You just had to do it, didn’t you? Couldn’t spare a thought for those of us who’ve been struggling since before you were born to stay away from Cafe du Mond and beignets and that coffee of theirs, could you? I guess we’ll just have to try even harder now. Put even more miles on these old, tired knees, trying to burn off the extra calories (and multiple studies have shown that beignet calories don’t burn the way other calories do). Sigh.

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