Going Downhill

I was visiting San Diego a while back for business. One advantage for a runner on a business trip is time zone changes. I rarely have to worry about finding time to fit in a run when I am waking up at 4 AM Pacific time without an alarm clock. I strap on the running shoes for breath taking early morning discoveries. The only thing I don’t like about running in unfamiliar areas is not knowing where I’m going. I’m so low tech that my *GPS* is the moss that grows on the trees. I usually pick one road, one direction, and run, then hope that time runs out before the road does.

On this trip, the road I picked had a lengthy, precipitous hill. As in *long*, *steep*, and *never-ending* were not decriptive enough for it. Fear not! This is not a grievance against the hill instead it is praise for it’s challenge and proof of toughness and determination. An affirmation of a worthy climbing hill. It require 30 minutes to crest. If it was not the steepest hill I have ever endured then, for sure, the combination of steepness and length is unique.

Interestingly, I stopped a few times for a wildlife encouter. Of course, *Wild* isn’t exactly the term that comes to mind when musing about snails. Still, I marveled at the curious occassion of seeing snails crossing the sidewalk. Shortly, I continued up the hill for had I waited til every snail finished crossing, I’d still be waiting there.

Of course, what goes up must come down. Most expect that going downhill is the easy part. Minimal effort needed when you have gravity to pull you down. Except that this hill was steep. The road was loaded with commuter traffic already so maintaining control was cumpulsory. Not to mention the threat to wildlife crossing! I reined in to regulate my downward progress.

I was near half way down the hill when I seized up. My back was in so much agony that I lethargically walked down the hill. Seriously? I had just mastered a 9% or so climb but I couldn’t handle going downhill. What a sad sight to behold.

From then on, every hill, regardless of the angle, I engaged was an agonizing decent until reaching the flatlands. Yes, it’s true, I would rather beg to run uphill than downhill.

But, lately, that hasn’t been the case. I’m flying down the hills to the point of obliviousness to speed and control. Child-like glee poised to leap from my lips in giggles and smiles.

How could this be? I hate downhills?

It took me several new downhill runs to distinguish the importance of stride. In San Diego, I was hammering my heels in a pair of Asics (my favorite shoe, by the way). The concrete landings driving all the way up my legs causing spasms in my back. My VFFs renovated my stride into a forefront strike. The impact just seems to disapear. My teeth don’t clatter. My back doesn’t spasm. There’s no resistance to gravitational assistance. Running downhill is like tip toeing through the tulips.


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Filed under running, Vibram Five Fingers

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