Running can be so entirely all encompassing, and span the full range of emotions. In my opinion, this can be both a positive thing, and a negative.
Looking back to the start of the year, running was taking over my life for so many of the wrong reasons. When I think about it, running had encompassed my life, but in a way that struck fear into my heart – I was embarking on a marathon training off the back of a couple of 10km attempts based on sporadic training. All of a sudden my life was all about training plans, and trying to meet the targets they set. But when I didn’t meet them, I was hit by a tonne of negative emotions, beating myself up and questioning everything I was and wasn’t doing. I was depressed, and my running suffered as a result with the awful time I had at the London Marathon struggling through to a 5:41 finish. Strange that it should suffer, when it felt like my only focus in every waking moment had been running.
More recently, in the last four months my world has been – to coin a phrase from the great Fresh Prince – flip-turned upside down. In this short period of time I have gotten married, changed job, and moved house (twice). And yet throughout this huge upheaval, seemingly the one thing that has kept me sane is my total unabated joy that I have found in running and training.
Never before have I felt the simple satisfaction from a nice run in the way that I have on a few occasions over the last couple of months. Something certainly has to be said for the aim of running for pleasure rather than just knocking out the miles for training’s sake. That’s not to say I haven’t been focused. For 8 weeks I followed a training plan to take me to a 50min 10km in preparation for the Three Molehills race with Mum & Dad. I never envisaged 50 minutes as a 10km time in this particular event, but it was a well laid out plan that I felt was accomplishable (is that a word).
But, because the plan seemed to suit me so well – bearing in mind it’s just a generic plan from a website – I was easily able, and happy to go out and do the running, and 9 times out of 10 I really enjoyed it too.
When it came to race day, I had come to terms with not just the fact that we wouldn’t win, but that there was a real sense that we may finish rock bottom, and it didn’t bother me at all. It was a brilliant day, and I just had such a lovely time racing with Mum & Dad. The added bonus of course was that I knocked over 5 minutes off my PB for 10km, I was on cloud nine.
Monday was a deserved (I think) rest day, but when Tuesday came around and I didn’t want to go out I was a little worried that without a focus I would drop off the boil a little too much and not enjoy my running so much. Wednesday saw the commencement of the 100 reps challenge Mk.II, so on Thursday I decided to force myself out for a run. My aim being to hit the scheduled meeting place for the running club on their road run as it was fairly close to home.
The weather was awful! Pissing it down with rain, and swirling wind, and when I made it to the meeting point there was not a soul in sight, so I decided to carry on round Reigate and home for a 3.5mile loop. Having envisaged meeting the club I had not taken my headphones, so I ran in relative silence (except the commuting traffic) and at one with my thoughts, getting wet, and windswept, and out of breath on the long slow rise from Reigate and I just thought to myself how tremendous it all was to be out there, running, at that exact moment in time. I got home, a drowned rat, but a really, really happy one.
Saturday I was up for my return to Parkrun, a chance to avenge the 2 second deficit from a fortnight ago, and still on a high from the previous week I was feeling a little confident. The gun went – or rather the race director shouted Ready, GO! – and off we went, a reduced crowd this week went off a pretty brisk pace, and within a few hundred metres I just couldn’t believe how tired I felt. My legs ached, my lungs struggled for air, and my heart seemed to be going like the clappers. I really didn’t feel into it at all, and I was really despondent. But there was no point stopping, certainly not till I got back to the start/finish area, and when I eventually did get there, I figured I might as well finish and clock up my time and stats for completing another run.
When I got to the half way point though, my strategy was turned on its head as the timekeeper shouted out 12:20 as I passed!! A full 50 seconds faster than at this point on the last two runs. Wow, if I could just hold on, maybe I stood a chance. But a hill stands between me and that chance, and it definitely slowed me down, but I just kept chanting in my head FOOSE THE LEGS, FOOSE THEM :-) 200 metres to go, and I was at about 24:30. I was going to smash the PB surely, but by how much. I gave it everything, which felt like so much, but probably looked far less impressive, and stopped my watch at 25 and change. I’d have to wait and see if I broke the 25 minute mark, but easily a PB.
A few hours later, the text message confirmed it: 25:05, and a new PB by 72 seconds!! Brilliant!!!
I finished my running week with 8.5 ‘easy’ miles on Sunday. My legs felt tired, probably not helped by two race efforts in 6 days, and 2 sets of the 100 reps challenge, but with an energy gel at 40 minutes I perked up a little, and actually came home quite comfortably in just under 10 minute miles, so I was really happy with this. It’s been really nice getting to know the area as a result of my running, as I get to venture off and explore the country lanes around us.
This week has really highlighted to me just how much I absolutely love running, and how important it is to achieve the right balance, and to keep your expectations in check! Races come and go, even that ‘A’ race that you’re building to. But you have to remember why you started it in the first place. To get fit, and to enjoy yourself!! Fundamentally, that is the reason we all do it, because we enjoy it! And, importantly, if you are training for a race, spend some time finding a training plan that is entirely suitable for your goals, your current standard, and a realistic estimation of how much time you are able to give over to training.