As part of the selection process for the Ashmei Ambassador Scheme I was asked to describe my aspirations and goals – in one minute. It was a really tough assignment – a minute is nowhere near as long as you’d think it is!
It certainly got me thinking about my running goals.
I was recently talking with Mum and Dad about my ‘fad’-based approach to life. I have always spent my time flitting from one interest to the next, and in some respects that has served me well as I have learnt lots of things with varying degrees of success. From instruments such as the violin, piano and guitar to sports including football and badminton and hobby-crafts like sewing and knitting and from attempting to re-learn French for holidays I have always picked up on new things, immersed myself in them for a while, then moved on.
When I first started running with any degree of seriousness, I think I joined Mum and Dad on Bexhill sea-front a couple of times. Then I got bored of that and moved on. Once I finished university I picked it up again every now and then as I decided I would run a 10km race or something similar. So I would train(ish) for maybe 6 weeks, do the race, be annoyed at how hard it felt and so stop running. Rinse, and repeat.
All the while, I kept applying for the London Marathon ballot places. On the fourth attempt I was… lucky(?!?)… to get pulled out of the hat, so I set about training. My knees caused me issues, but really my head did more of the work at stopping me training on most occasions, and then when the day finally arrived, I had over-egged my target and fell horrendously short of it. I vowed never to do it again. The next day, it was all I could do just to try and not look like John Wayne without a horse as I walked. It took a few months before I set about running again as I felt I had to do myself justice. But I soon pulled out of my comeback marathon in Chester as I just wasn’t ready.
At this point I think I began to accept that, despite these difficulties, actually I quite liked running. Many people often have a reason to start running, whether it is to lose weight, to have something to do, to get away from other addictions, or to raise money for causes close to their heart. To this day I can’t really think why I started. I mean, I’ve never been happy with my weight, and Lyndsey often tells me I must be body-dismorphic, but I didn’t actively start running to shift the pounds. I am quite happy filling my time with new skills (or indeed with meaningless nothings), so I don’t feel like I need running as a hobby. Other than a beer or two at the weekend, I have no discernible vices that need quenching, and I don’t feel like I have a cause that I desperately need to fight for, or a message to get across to the people. All in all, I think that has often been a stumbling block in my running; a reason that I don’t have to try too hard. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t seem to be doing this for any particular reason at all. So why push myself?
From the summer of 2011 I have actively stuck with running, and that is absolutely a first for me, and now as I look back on that fact, perhaps I should celebrate that commitment a little. In fact, I have run every Christmas Day since 2010, and last year it was my only run in December. I couldn’t have imagined that happening a few years ago.
Training for the Milton Keynes marathon was a joy in 2012 as we had such a glorious spring season, right up until race day! But despite the vile weather, I was pleased at taking 1 hour 20 off my marathon time, but a little bit still niggled away in my mind about how quickly I had resorted to walking on the course and how much it hurt me despite all the training.
Quite what it was at the time that made me even think about running 100 miles I have no idea. It was silly, and I look back now and curse myself for being so foolish about it. I think I got caught on a rush of endorphins or something, and whilst I could talk the talk, and justify my decision to others, I don’t think I ever convinced myself. It probably didn’t help that perhaps three of my greatest ever runs happened in 2013:
I have never been particularly big on celebrating the new year, and certainly not one of those characters who drinks the night away intent on spending the next day with a hard-earned hangover, but I couldn’t have envisioned wanting to run on the 1st of January either. After completing the London parkrun trio in 2012, I kicked it up a notch for 2013 with a 30 mile run in North Yorkshire. I had trained pretty well for the event, but had no real idea of what to expect. We were lucky with the weather on the day, but it had been wet beforehand so the mud was deep. As marathon distance loomed I got in something of a negative headspace, but yet the 26.2 miles passed without fanfare. From here I had to get up the hill back to Ravenscar. When I finished though, I felt amazing. It was a revelation. Everything I had worked for seemed kind of justified.
Later that spring, having caused myself some damage in the cross-country season I set out from my in-laws with a plan to run about 30 miles. This was only the second time I had gone over marathon distance, and my first attempt at such a run on my own. The weather was horrible – a bit of a pea-souper – but as I ran I really enjoyed the time on the trails, and the time to think about not much at all. I actually covered the distance faster than I had done in January, and when I came home I got changed and we headed out for dinner with friends – I could actually walk!
Just one month later, I toed the start line of North Downs Way 50 miler. Just under 10 and a half hours later I ran up onto the field and crossed the finish line. From start to finish it had been tough, but it had been the most amazing day ever (in a different context to my wedding day of course.) I almost felt as though I’d floated along the course.
But I think all of these wonderful runs only served to heighten my misplaced belief that I could run 100 miles. I simply didn’t give it the respect that is deserved. Despite my training with Robbie, when the car broke down on the way to the start line of the NDW100 I almost breathed a sigh of relief – only almost, I was still completely gutted that I didn’t at least get the chance to try!
Despite everything that had been beforehand I still managed to get to Caesars Camp confident that I could make it through the night and finish. It wasn’t to be though, and although it was my knee that took a hammering I think that really it was my mind that gave up the ghost long beforehand and I have fought with the question of “why do I do it?” ever since.
Wow, this is a lot of waffle about the past before I get on to the ‘Aspirations and Goals’ bit. If you have made it this far, then you deserve a medal!
I only ran a handful of times between CCER and January, and since then my meagre Jantastic target of three runs has been surprisingly hard to achieve. But it has been in the last week of enforced rest and the question of aspirations and goals, that has truly got me thinking about the reasons I run.
So here it is, my revelation. I hope that you are ready.
I have no idea!
Do I need a reason to run? Yes I think so. I think that it helps on the wet and windswept days to have a driving force to get me out of the cosy warm and of the house and away from Delilahs smiles.
The knowledge that I am burning calories or not drinking that n’th beer of the day isn’t spurring me on either. I enjoy being out on the trails, but even with the lovely hills around here it’s not quite so inspiring now that I’ve been spoiled by the alps.
So what can my reason be? I think there is only one thing left. To run in order to be as good as I possibly can be. To use what time I have to best effect. To push myself as hard as I can to achieve my targets. I need to buck my ideas up and focus on running. I clearly enjoy it – judging by past experiences I wouldn’t still be doing it now if I didn’t. I get so much out of it, but as the old adage goes – you only get out what you put in, and maybe I’m not putting enough into it.
With Frankfurt as my next major race, this has to be my immediate target. I want sub 4 hours desperately, but if I put in some effort, then this should be more than achievable. I read, with a pang of jealousy, lots of reports from the Surrey Half this weekend and the numerous half marathons last weekend, talk of times that can be measured in minutes rather than hours, and I desperately want to be able to say that too. But it’s not going to happen if I don’t work harder.
So I guess, all this waffle boils down to just a few simple points. I must get stronger – working with the physio to fix this dodgy knee once and for all (which is feeling much better following the week of hell with a tubigrip on and doing lots of single leg dips,) From this stronger base I need to get my fitness back. I need to get back on the running track and really work hard to get my legs turning over. I must take the lessons learnt from Robbie on the hills and apply them to my training – train hard to race easy!
And with that, dear listeners, if you have gotten this far, 1800 words later my aspirations and goals are as follows:
A fast 5km (approaching the right side of 20 minutes)
A half that can be counted in minutes (90 or less preferably)
A respectable marathon time (3:30 would be nice)
100 miles – one day, when the time is right
Do you have a reason to run? I’d love to hear why it’s important to you. Do you have any particular goals and aspirations?