First off, Thank you so much to all of you who have continued to make my new book, The Science of Running, a success. I cannot express how grateful I am for all of you who helped make it a success and wrote, emailed, or tweeted at me. I'll have more on that in a week or two.
Why Breakthroughs can be dangerous?
It’s happened to us all. We’ve had that momentous breakthrough race where we glide along effortlessly, waiting for that pain to rear it’s ugly head, but it never does. We smash our personal bests, feel no pain and marvel at how “easy” it was. Excitement builds in our minds as we begin to realize that there may be more left in the tank. That if only we had pushed to that point of pain, we’d be able to run even faster. Anticipation builds until the next race, where we know that next time we can run faster. It simply makes sense, why wouldn’t we be able to. It came so easy to us the last race.
More often than not, we are knocked back. Perhaps we run close to our PR or perhaps we settle back towards our previous norm, but inevitably the next race hurts a whole lot more. How could this be? Why do our fastest races, our breakthroughs, often feel so much easier? And why can this be a dangerous thing?
The Consequences of a Breakthrough
The reason a breakthrough often feels easier is a topic in and of itself. We could delve into the psychological state of flow, or attribute it to a release of opiods or other such hormones. We could delve into the activation of certain brain areas, or we could take an integrated approach and talk about how breakthroughs feel easier simply because it’s a building of feeling better than expected as we progress through the race, combined with a high degree, and perhaps ever increasing, degree of importance.