as the legend has it, the magnificent centipede  was about to ruthlessly inject its prey with a deadly venom… then unexpectedly the poor doomed prey ask him a rather benign question:  “you have such a large number of legs, how do you keep them all coordinated enough to walk, seems very difficult?”

the centipede laughed with his usual arrogance and said, “you know i never really thought about it, you see i just kind of…..”

at that moment the centipede went into a deep concentration, realizing he never actually tried to figure it out. he picked up one leg and tried to think about what was next…. unable to figure out what to do next he stood there motionless, helpless confused.

the brilliant little prey walked away to live another day.

this story comes to me, not without a lesson: if you force yourself to think about something that comes intuitively, you may render yourself incapable of performing the skill that was once so easy.

recently i learned this lesson as i have been trying to improve my running form.  for the past 4 months i have been obsessed with my running form, and just form in general.  i have been running for about 30 years, and my form has not been horrible.  it has changed here and there but for the most part it has been generally quite smooth.  however i believe that it has not been the model of efficiency.  i don’t run symmetrically my knees bend too much on every stride, and my feet spend too much time on the ground.  i have been watching video after video of proper running form.  each time i watch a video i get something new to work on.  maybe i just have a short memory and i’m just relearning the same thing over and over again, but i always leave inspired.  i have been practicing the “pose”, studying the chi, and fawning at the barefoot runners.  i even run with my vibram five fingers to help me get up on my toes.  i aqua-run three times a week to practice my form and work on strength.  i work out very specific muscle groups to enhance parts of my gait that i like.  needless to say i am quite obsessed.

though i have been very dedicated to studying  the human running form, i have one very glaring problem.  i can not run anymore.  i remember the old days when i could just leave the house and run like a deer through the neighborhoods and trails like there was no limit.  it didn’t happen every time but it used to happen, and it was what running was all about.  now, my running has turned into complicated dance steps performed with a puppet using hundreds of strings made from human muscles.  every move of every muscle is thought out, analyzed and corrected…. from my toes to my neck and shoulders.  by mile two i am completely exhausted, my enthusiasm is gone and everything feels like forced exercise.

i long for the days when running will be fun again.  my mind is so fixed on running correctly; i think i will never get back to running freely.  perhaps i should take a shot of jägermeister, like i did when i learned to telemark ski. i was so overwhelmed that i ordered a shot of jäger, got back out on the slopes and voila, i could tele!

a quiet mind and a relaxed body is what i need right now.

4 comments on: centipede’s delima

  1. barb

    hey leo
    (toldja i’d keep tabs on you!)
    there’s nothing really wrong with wanting to improve your form- but maybe you need a distraction. maybe try to run a totally new route without a watch or something? if you run without music maybe try and run with it to distract you?
    i dunno. sounds like there’s a lot going on in your head while you’re running- maybe try doing math equations? ;)
    good luck Leo! Run free! :)

  2. FoCo Runner

    I know what you mean here. Every once in awhile early last year when I was really trying hard to improve my running form, I heard the giant sucking sound of my enthusiasm flying south. Eventually, it came back, and I think I’ve learned to take a more measured approach to my running form and the fun came back. Hope it returns soon for you as well. Cheers.

  3. Lara

    Oh Leo, I had no idea things had gotten so hard for you. I’ve been out b/c of injury, you’ve been out because your mind went into overload. Ok, I’m on it.

  4. urbanvox

    wow… that story brings me places… feels like that with my photography!!!!
    great post dude!

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