my running adventures – barefoot or otherwise
In my last post, I said I’d try to put into words the feelings that come over me when I miss out on a run unexpectedly, or at the last minute.
Often, my runs are a means of getting to work during the week, and really, my only planned run is a longer weekend run, which I have to admit often is one of the things that I most look forward to in a weekend (even though I usually have to do it in sacrifice of my turn for a lie-in!).
So, before going into trying to express my emotions about missing out on a run, I wanted to spend a few moments reflecting on what it is about a run that makes me look forward to it so much.
One reason is that it feels like a really special time for me and me alone. While I’m still ‘of the world,’ I feel somehow simultaneously connected with my surroundings, but free from them. Free from the daily grind, the normal expectations and thought patterns that my everyday world confines me too. This feeling then enables me to contextualise my day-to-day tediousness (times of, not constant!) and helps me to see the bigger picture of the world and my place in it. I also find that this time inevitably leads me to a sense of a greater appreciation for my wonderful wife and children. I miss them, even if I’m only away from them for an hour or two.
Second – and these points are not necessarily in order – I enjoy the challenge of running. While the goal for each run differs subtley, the commitment to getting out in the open in the weather of this unpredictable country is not to be sniffed at. I love the sense of satisfaction I get from running, the feeling of well-being that comes from knowing I’ve exerted my body and my mind above the normal and comfortable.
I also like stats…and not just my stats! I enjoy seeing how my last run compares with runs from a week, month, or year ago. I like that apps like Strava, Endomondo, or MapMyRun encourage you to be accountable to your peers about your fitness, whether it is running, cycling, swimming or something else. (More on Strava in a future Geek-focussed blog post!). I like being able to keep tabs on my peers’ exercise too, poring over their recent runs or rides and considering if routes they’ve tried might be worth having a go at myself.
I like aiming for PBs sometimes, or trying to run a previous run I’ve done a bit faster, or trying a new hill, extra hill, longer distance, new route etc. What I have yet to develop and incorporate into my *limited* training regime are fartlek-style exercises, combining bursts of high tempo speed with slower recovery jogs. Perhaps that is something for me to work on in the next few months.
One thing that springs to mind in writing about why I run is the unspoken bond that runners share with each other. Whether it is in overtaking or being overtaken by other runners, running towards runners coming past you, or seeing them on the other side of a river or path, I enjoy the feeling I’m in a positive, healthy community, whereby everyone feels the need to give a slight nod or a weak smile to their fellow runner. Yes, there are the odd ones that look down, sideways, or anywhere else to avoid eye contact, but I suspect they are running newbies, or perhaps of an ilk that shuns the welcoming arms of the running community at large.
There is plenty more I could talk about in why I run, but before I bore you all, I’ll turn my attention to the original point of this post; how I feel when I don’t get my run.
Now, before I begin to put into my clumsy words my expression of how I feel, let me make it clear that I’m not saying how I react or feel is right, proper, or in any way a measured response. It is simply how I feel and I’m trying to put to rest any comments about me needing to grow up or act like an adult. I admit it, sometimes I sulk. Sometimes I get mardy and sometimes I feel like the world is against me.
I initially feel a sense of loss, like something treasured has been unjustly taken away from me. This then turns into one of revenge, ‘well, I’m going to go further and faster next time so there.’ Once I’ve dealt with that immaturity, I then progress on to sorrow. I regret that I won’t ever be able to make up that run as such. Yes, I might do another run in the future, but who’s to say I wouldn’t have done that anyway? From this point, I then simmer away mumbling to myself about how unfair it all is, counting down the minutes, hours and days until my next scheduled run.
As my next run gets closer, I become excited and expectant about my next run. Probably unrealistically so, but I envisage me breaking all my records in the next run as I see myself across my mind’s eye sprinting at top speed with no sign of weariness! I consider carefully (usually anyway!) which route I’m going to take and start to plan what I’ll need where in order to avoid carrying a rucksack of work-related gubbins on my back.
As the time for a run gets closer, I start to feel more happy, act more pleasant (I think, or at least I feel like I’m acting more pleasantly), but at the same time I start to worry about how long it has been since I last ran. Will I have lost some pace or fitness? Will my body work as well as it did last time? What excuses might there be if I don’t have a good run?
I think that a large part of running is your ability to cope with the psychological demands that go with it, like most sports. As it is generally something done alone, it really can be mind over matter regarding whether you go out at all in adverse weather, or whether you take a break, or an easier, flatter route during a run. I like this challenge and it makes me feel good when I overpower negative thoughts that creep in.
A friend of mine says he uses the phrase ‘train hard, race easy’ and it is something I try to recall in those tough solitary moments when I’m struggling a bit on a run. What running or sporting wisdom keeps you going when you’re in a tough time on a run or sporting endeavour? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Next up, either some ideas on why running is like a journey through life, or a Geek-fest discussion on the merits of Strava, an app I use to track my runs, routes and times.
Barefooting on the way to work in the morning and feeling excited about it,