Running Off The Beaten Track

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A couple of weeks ago I participated in my first long distance running relay event —”Off The Beaten Track” on Grand Cayman.   It was fun and challenging.  My challenge was not running the distance (50K divided by 6 runners) but running in heat and humidity in the middle of the day and find my way over an unfamiliar running course that was not marked. Oh, and did I mention running on the beach?

After assisting at the ChiRunning Instructor Training in Fort Lauderdale I decided to visit to my brother and sister-in-law who live on Grand Cayman. I was looking forward to vacation time, but my brother put me to work. First, he arranged for me to teach the pain-free ChiRunning technique to some of their friends, next was a talk on the ChiWalking technique to his Rotary group and then came the invitation — how would I like running on a relay team in a race called Off The Beaten Track? I had less than a week to train for the heat and humidity.

Although it can get hot in northern California where I live it doesn’t get humid. On my first day on the island I started running before it got too hot, but I melted after only two and a half miles and dragged myself home. My legs felt like lead with less than three miles on them. Not good. The following morning I started by walking then relaxed into running, but the biggest shift came when I turned on my metronome. I realized immediately that in the heat my stride had become sloppy and my cadence too low. No wonder my legs had felt heavy! It’s harder to run when your cadence is too low. Over the next couple of days I was able to increase my running distance to eight miles with the help of the ChiRunning focuses and especially C-shape, y-chi, cadence and circular feet.

I was assigned the last leg of the relay so it was after 11 a.m. and over 80º when I started running. The reason the race is called “Off The Beaten Track” is that it covers a variety of terrain — in fact, in my leg, I had sand, rock, asphalt, concrete, grass and a bit of bush whacking. There are no racecourse markers. Runners are responsible for familiarizing themself with the course. The previous runner on my team got lost so when I started running I was feeling some pressure to make up time. I focused on my alignment, keeping my stride short and kept choosing an y’chi and soon found I was able to relax and enjoy running. Whenever I felt the heat sapping my energy I would lengthen my neck and visualize my C-shape and instantly feel lighter. It was these focuses and more that enabled me to run the distance and not do any walking — unlike some of the people I passed. 

Although I felt good despite the heat and humidity and had beautiful scenery to enjoy while running my two beach sections, the true gratification of this event was being part of a group of 100 plus runners who, along with sponsoring organizations such as Grand Cayman Central Rotary, were able to raise over $20,000 for Facing Africa — a charity dedicated to helping children in Nigeria and Ethiopia who suffer from a disease called NOMA, an acute and ravaging gangrenous infection affecting the face. NOMA victims are mainly children under the age of six, caught in a vicious cycle of extreme poverty and malnutrition and the mortality rate is around 90 per cent. I’d definitely go off the beaten track again!


Posted in Beginners

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