Feb 26, 2010

Listserv Gold V - "Activation Energy"

Time for another edition of Ultrarunning Listserv Gold, a semi-regular feature of this blog where I quote something I found inspiring, interesting, or generally valuable on one of the various ultrarunning email distribution lists I subscribe to. To view all editions of ULG, please click here. This particular one comes from the yahoo group, where you can subscribe at http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/ultrarunning/

Gordon C and Mike M on "Activation Energy"

Gordon writes,
After all of these years of running (45!) I have learned (but often forget) one immutable fact: You never know which runs are going to be great and which awful or which are going to fall somewhere in between (the vast majority fall here), until you do it. I cursed getting dressed out, tying on my Nikes, digging out my rain shell, and sloshing down the low fairway grass, and then near the end, the sun broke out, the sky was an incredible late evening blue-purple and 72 minutes had passed in the blink of an eye.

Much better than what I deserved. Thank you for my blessings.

Mike responds,
Well said! I too am a runner of long tenure, now into my 37th year of running (and into my 15th year without missing a day) and I too STILL struggle with what I call the 'activation energy' issue.

In a chemical reaction, many times when you mix two reactive ingredients together nothing happens - they just sit there. Until you add a small amount of what is called 'activation energy' - it's like the spark that turns the starter on a car's engine. It might be some small amount of heat, or a spark - whatever - but this small amount of 'activation energy' added into the mix kick-starts the chemical reaction and then the reaction takes off and proceeds to completion on its own, without any further energy input. But without the 'activation energy', the reaction would never get started.

In my running, I have to use a small amount of 'activation energy' to kick-start my fat dead a$$ out the door and into the first half-mile. I'm often grumpy and mumbling vulgarities as I shuffle off, but four or five minutes into the run my 'chemical reaction' kicks in and suddenly it's just not 'difficult' anymore, and I begin to smooth out and my breathing gets stronger and regular and I relax and really enjoy the physical movement and activity. Often, by the middle of the run I've picked up the pace significantly and by the finish I'm steaming in, hitting on all cylinders and having a wonderful time. I nearly always finish with a big smile on my face, and I'm ALWAYS happy that I mustered the 'activation energy' to get started.

I hope to never lose those feelings...
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