I’ve several versions of this blog. The task of writing it was at first daunting; not knowing where to start or how to keep from boring people with my workaday take on running. I’m no athlete. I’m certainly not fast. I’ve not achieved any mean feats of distance (yet). I even find it difficult to get myself out of the door for more than one run a week.
As such, I brainstormed to decide which topic was least asinine. Injuries? Boring. Nutrition? Boring. Form? Boring.
Full disclosure. I think those things: injury prevention, nutrition and form, are dead important. On a professional level I do know about them all and I’m very happy to discuss them with anyone interested, but a generic piece about how to perfect them is not riveting stuff.
I’m new here at Flow; what do I want people to know about me so that they will feel like they’ve had an insight before they come to me for help with their own corporeal complaints? Well. I suppose I’d just like you, the reader, to know this: I find it just as hard as you do. Not only the very task of firing up my cardiovascular and respiratory systems and begging them to hold out while I plod the streets. All of it. Feel like you might be doing it wrong? Me too! Worried you’ll end up in a heap on the ground? Me too! Don’t much feel like running today (tea and biscuits sounds like a more beneficial use of time)? Me. Too.
I do have some advice. It goes some way to help overcome most all the challenges that try their damnedest to stop us getting out there. Here it is: Be part of a community. This doesn’t mean you have to join a running group. Running groups are amazing havens full of wisdom, experience, kinship, friendly competition and motivation but that doesn’t mean you need one. Some people prefer to run alone and that’s okay. But join an online community. Read blogs. Invite friends to use the same app to track their runs so you can see each other’s hard work. Talk to your friendly running-enthusiast Osteopath. However you do it, immersing yourself in a community is inspirational and guaranteed make you feel like getting out there. Seeing my friends hit milestones never fails to make me think “I can do that!” because I know their challenges are just like my own.
Along with inspiration, a valuable thing that comes from community is wisdom. I’m not saying that every piece of advice you get will be good advice, and as such always take it with a pinch of salt. Yet, some of the most valuable advice I’ve ever been given has been completely non-technical, easy-peasy stuff mentioned mid-run by friends. I have a tactic for keeping my training fairly consistent. Fairly is a significant word as I gladly admit to still finding it difficult to execute every run I put in my diary, but my tactic is this: book races. Don’t ever be frightened by the word “RACE”. It’s just a run with lots of strangers. In fact, I have twice finished a race so late they packed up the finish line as I crossed it. I’m not winning anything unless they’re handing out wooden spoons.
During one race, a gentleman who must have been 40 years my senior and whose ankles were swollen and barely moving as he ran, shuffled up behind me and kindly let me know that if I didn’t pick up my pace I’d finish last since he would overtake me. We ran the rest together so it was a good finish to a hard race. In another, a lady who again appeared a less likely runner than even myself, ran with me for the last mile or so in solidarity only to sprint finish and leave me trailing in her dust. Nevertheless, having a date in the diary and knowing in advance the distance I need to run on that day keeps me working towards it, and having a nice collection of medals at home is a cheerful reminder of the good, the bad, the ugly and the momentous! If you can convince people in your running community to join you at a race; even better. Having the same goal is a great way to share training, whether that is sharing actual runs or just anecdotes.
Races don’t need to be flashy or time-consuming either. A quick 5k or 10k not too far from home can see you home before lunch time if you so wish. To give you some information about my current goal and the races I’m working towards, I need only utter two words. London Marathon. Frightening stuff. Prior to writing this, the longest race I had participated in was a 10 miler. I’ve another of those in a week, followed shortly thereafter by a fairly brutal half marathon and then the big one.
So far my training plan has not exactly been sleek. I’m working a lot and as a result, my short runs often comprise my bolting up and down the nearest hill for half an hour whenever I find the time. My long run this week will be 9 miles, then it’s the 10 mile race next week. I’ve tried to stick to training plans, both generic ones and personalised ones and I will commend anyone else who can work with them but for me they are just a constant reminder that I’ve missed a run or I couldn’t manage to do the session the way it was planned. They get me down about running and make it feel like a drag. Running shouldn’t feel like an obligation. The joy you feel when you’re moving along at speed and some physiological miracle has made sure you don’t feel like a lorry going uphill in first gear. That should be the reason you’re out there. Having said that, even when you do feel like a lorry grumbling uphill in first gear, you still pat yourself on the back when you get home and tuck into your tea and biscuits knowing you worked for them.
So my training plan is experimental, my motivation is sometimes lacking and my schedule is jam-packed. On top of that I’m not exactly built for running speed or distance. So when I run this marathon, I hope you’ll realise you could probably do it too.