I need to get this off my chest. It’s been brewing a while & for goodness sake …. I need to get sewing! But. There are quite a few words to follow. Hopefully a few chuckles too. You may not be interested in reading through this & no worries – I won’t know! However, as I am in a continual battle with myself around running, maybe this can help someone else out there. By writing it, I think it’s also clarifying things for me too. Before I start, I need to say now that this post will not be a guilt ridden pitiful excuse for lack of commitment but a song of joy, having finally pieced together my own personal jigsaw for enjoying (yes I did say enjoying) going for (longer) runs. Hurrah!
This is written the day after running in the Birmingham Half Marathon which I also enjoyed more than any other 13.1 + mile race in the whole history of my not-that-long running career. I came a stunning 9,825th! I think I ran my slowest (or near slowest) half marathon (ever). But somehow that didn’t matter as it was such a great race. I need to say that the Birmingham Half was an awesome run, through the city centre (past the Rag Market in the first mile – closed thankfully as I might have veered off!). The crowds were electric. I was running with my sister-in-law & we LOVED all the cheering just for us (really!) as the last pair left behind by the rest of the green starters who had headed off more quickly than us (we overtook many later on – tortoise & the hare). The crowds at the beginning were just so excitable that I was in near hysterical laughter , almost relieved when we ran through a more subdued cheering mass as I think the hysterics would have worn me out (or I’d have wet myself! ) Some funny guy also said “Come on ladies, stop the window shopping”. We laughed again! The route was interesting through the city centre and out to the chocolate factory (Cadbury’s – was Bournville). We then caught Edgbaston cricket ground and came around Canon Hill Park. The last three miles were hardest as they usually are, made more so by being uphill. Gosh, when I finished I was even emotional enough to shed a tear or two! The crowds though were awesome, thank you everyone for turning out to encourage us all. There was a good sprinkling of music & some great live bands & other competitors had such great spirit. The organisation of the race was the best yet & your name was printed on your number in your race pack. You could if you wanted to fill in a pre-printed label for your back “I’m running for” …. Part of me wished I’d worn mine ….but I would have felt irreverent when there were so many people being remembered or good causes being collected for…
However some people had the courage to wear theirs. I saw the following:
- “At least 3 hours”
- Two ladies, one with “Ever” the other with “More”
- “Justice in Gotham City”
So, can I share my eureka ingredients for enjoying running? I’d love to help someone else desperate to ramp up their enjoyment percentages (remember I said mine was only 20% of the time out running!)
Now the secret is that everyone will have their own secret. You just have to find out what works best for you. Remember that everyone comes up against a fiendish & very clever opponent trying to thwart your runs. I’d say in my case that this caused ( & still causes) the biggest barriers to me even getting my shoes on. My biggest enemy is myself. I can create such a great barrage of excuses, delay tactics & reasons for not going out for a run. I can be SO weak willed. But it’s important to prepare yourself for this powerful & canny foe that knows you better than you seem to know yourself. I take a multi-pronged attack, this is my arsenal:
- Vision – Have a personal vision for the kind of runner you want to be. Mine is being a lean leggy long distance runner, gracefully gliding across the miles, so fit that she can wear those skimpy shorts that look like knickers (don’t worry I would never)
- Try to reinforce your vision in every way possible. It is not enough on its own. It needs looking after & feeding. I subscribe to Womens Running magazine to give me a monthly dose of information, motivation & inspiration to help me believe in my identity as a runner. Maybe I’ll even do some of the exercises one day.
- Attitude to life -I actually needed to change my attitude for doing all sorts of things – not just running. I took on a “just do it now” approach for all things that were not necessarily pleasurable: emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the bathroom, doing the bins. None of them are fun, but snapping into a different way of dealing with those type of chores helped me translate that into going out for a run. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. No negotiation with myself. It’s a fact. Just do it now, otherwise your chief foe will stop you.
- More reading – I also read, on recommendation from Ali, “What do I talk about when I talk about running” by Haruki Murakami. This was a great motivational read, not a huge tome. Guess what, this author & marathon runner also suffers from not wanting to run sometimes. This guy runs every day. He describes why he runs, what he has run, the marathons & how they feel to him. It’s not just me, crap runner, who struggles. Even great keen fast runners find it tough, sometimes don’t want to go out, even have hard races. I took a huge amount of solace in this & recognised more about my own personal motivation.
- Personal motivation – Be clear about your personal motivation- it can change. I had thought I would aim for a faster time at the next half marathon, but didn’t follow that up with commitment. Was beating my time more important to me than enjoyment? No – otherwise my actions would have been those related to getting stronger & faster but all I was doing was making excuses & slacking off. I now know what I like – it’s being out in the country, running through woods & over footpaths (slowly!). I need to enjoy it & it is possible even on an 11 mile run, honest! And surprisingly in a 13.1 mile race. I went out last Sunday morning, on my own, unusually for me. This was the first run over 8 miles that I have run without a group to carry my spirits along & I can honestly say that I enjoyed 95% of it. It was such a beautiful morning: autumn light amongst the leaves, some fallen underfoot. If I hadn’t been running I would have taken lots of photos, but had to post them to my memory instead. Had I not run I would have missed out on:
- 7 squirrels all with loot to hoard
- 3 steam trains in operation for a local steam festival. Running through steam was a strange experience – it was clean & damp, no smell at all.
- The light through the leaves
- Blackberries on the tops of bushes out of reach & hawthorn berries
- The amazing chocolate factory, lit like a beacon by the low autumn sun, rising proud from the surrounding flat sheep filled fields
- Church bells across the fields.
- Inspiration - Twitter – I also found a running quotes @runningquotes on Twitter. Daily doses of motivation in case I was forgetting who I am…..(why, I’m a runner of course?!)
- Company – Find a group or running buddy to run with. It’s even more guilt inducing to let other people down, plus chatting & gaining training tips & more chatting make the miles pass quicker. Plus how great it is to talk about running (& loving/ hating it with someone in the same boat! We are all human)
- Races- Are amazing to be part of, especially when roads are closed & there are huge numbers of pounding feet, fancy dress & people running for charity. The first few miles drift away as you get carried away by the excitement. Then there is the bling – a nice collection of medals & t-shirts. Having a forward plan of races that you have entered maintains commitment levels (as long as a combination of the other weapons are applied)
- Speed- get to know what speed you’ll be able to endure according to the distance you are running. My classic form of running hate is when I am too tired due to early burn out but am stuck with getting home, only able to concentrate on the person’s bum in front of me, missing whatever lovelies there are to be seen around me (not saying that the bum isn’t lovely, that would be rude).
- Music- guess what? You don’t have to be motivated by “Running songs” with a pumping beat! OK it works for some people. Even though I’d made myself up a playlist with some good tracks on it, there were some awful ones that I would never listen to were it not for their rythmns that are apparently conducive to running (the kind of music they play in gyms). OK, some make me laugh inwardly (Rocky theme), but what I found I enjoy the most is listening to “Radio Badger”, ie shuffling my whole iPod library & listening to music I enjoy, randomly, whilst in an environment I am enjoying. There is something awesome about running along a cycle track with some minimalist piano music, or giving yourself the opportunity to listen more intently to an old favorite.
- And finally, equipment. I suppose get the best you can afford. That goes for proper running shoes (check out my new ones above with those adorable blue laces!). I treat myself to a new pair of runners every 6 months, & usually do it after a big race, as a reward. I’ve also tried to kit myself out for all sorts of weather & practicality. I hate being too hot/ cold or uncomfortable. I wear glasses when I run & had been struggling to wear those hang-over-ear bud type headphones with the arms of my glasses. I’d have to keep pushing them in as they slipped out. The final straw came when the comfy bits got lost & I was still pushing them in, scratchy horrible things. So I invested in a better quality pair both for sound, as well as with narrower flexible hangers to share the backs of my ears with. Magic. No more problems. Once they’re on, they stay put for the whole run feeding me musical ambrosia.
So there it is. My huge long list of my running must haves that at the moment are quashing my inner foe. I can now drink & eat what I like & feel fit- woo hoo!! Does anyone else have any secrets to share? How persuasive is your enemy? Am I a complete running-phobe to need so many different weapons to conquer my own worst enemy?