Monday, 10 June 2013
Friday, 31 May 2013
You'll have your self-motivation which is really important, this will be boosted from time to time by inspirations and outside influences. Sometimes money will drive you to accomplish, at work or at school, the promise of financial reward will doubtless spur you on to try harder. And when all else fails, someone (usually me) will be telling you that you have to get on and deal with something, be it homework and chores as a kid, or work and life goals when you're older.
But there comes a time when you have all the support you need, but no one to push you out of the door, and no one but yourself can give you that kick up the backside that you need.
I once wrote a post which said "First they'll ask you why you do it, then they'll ask you How you do it". While this still holds true, once you've reached the latter part and you're capable sometimes the motivation to improve wanes.
And so it was after running the London Marathon in 2013 (I still haven't told that story, it's a good one), I found myself with all the support and ideas in the world but no real drive to complete. In fact I had a 3 year race plan partly filled, but no races booked and no plan to reach them!
Then I read this blog.
I realised that at times we coast, and that's ok as long as you're truly happy with seeing no improvement.
I realised that it's easy to highlight the results we are seeing and be blind ourselves to those we are not. From my twitter feed and blog, you'd think I'm infallible, but like all people that is far from the truth. I focus on my gains in speed and strength and turn a blind eye to my gains in weight.
I say that I'm training to lose weight, be lean and fit, and run fast short races and ultramarathons. Now that's a lot to ask, and if I'm honest I'm not training hard enough and I'm certainly neglecting my diet. I eat healthy food 90% of the time, but I eat way too much of it.
Laura's blog made me realise that only I could make the changes I wanted to see and I motivated myself in the best way I know.
I booked a load of races to keep me focused on the right training, and I started writing up my training plan to achieve goals at each one. A trail half marathon, a local 5k and a 62mile ultramarathon in September will keep my training relevant, my mind focused and my race-bling collection increasing.
But my sticking point is my diet. I'm not sure how I'm going to tackle it yet, but I think that healthy eating is the forgotten discipline of training. Give me cardio or resistance training and I'm a beast. Give me the opportunity to over eat though and self discipline flies out of the window.
As usual I've digressed kids, I guess the point is this. You can seek your motivation and inspiration from wherever you like. You can be driven yourself or driven by others. But when it comes to making changes, only you can take the first step.
Sunday, 19 May 2013
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
But it turns out I was wrong.
I read back through my old posts sometimes and realised I've been holding out on you.
I've alluded to aspirations, but never cemented them.
I've hinted at inspirations, but stopped one step short of naming them.
I've teased you with my dreams, but never quite said what they are.
But times change and people change. I have become much more receptive to the motivation of others and once you let that influence into your life it's kind of hard not to be inspired.
So whats happened, well I'll summarise.
I put in for the Paris marathon, but as time approached realised it wasn't feasible due to the costs. And on the same day that I made the heartbreaking decision not to attend I won a place on the London Marathon, but more on that later.
I decided not to run ultra marathon events any more, but after running London enjoyed it so much I have two planned this Summer, but more on that later.
But most importantly and the biggest and best change that ever happened to me?
I became comfortable with myself. Now that sounds a little twee perhaps but let me explain.
I've always had a bit of a downer on myself. I felt that my goals weren't as valuable as others, that it was somehow ridiculous for me to get what I want; as though somehow I didn't deserve them or the good things that come from achieving them.
This was embodied for me when I decided to pull out of a run at the end of last year which I was supposed to run with two other guys. It was to be a day long run of 60+ miles and when I got a few niggles and injuries in the run up to the event, I managed to convince myself that it was silly of me to have thought of running that far and I bailed, convincing myself that it was for the best as I would probably have just ruined other peoples days. The others involved remained positive and motivational but I knew that for me it was over.
I'd failed before I had begun because I had never really believed it possible.
However, bit by bit, I have come around to the idea that nothing is impossible, genuinely believing that I can accomplish my dreams. And my motivator for this was your mother. She never reads these things so I know I'm safe to say this, but she believes in me 100%. When I tel her I'm going to do something she has no doubt I'll achieve it and I started to think that if I believed myself that much, what else could I achieve?
The best thing about striving for your dreams is that they continue to grow as your belief and confidence grows. Four years ago I'd never run a race. This year I ran a marathon in under three and a half hours and next year I have something epic planned. Kids, big things are coming and you're going to be a huge part of them.
You're my inspiration to dream and achieve and I want to share this stuff with you now so that when you're old enough to understand it you realise what a huge part you played.
Stick with me guys, we are going places and this time, we are looking to win!
Saturday, 17 November 2012
After a few weeks of reduced running (I'm supposed to call it being injured, but don't like the term) I went for along run. Now there is nothing strange about that, granted, but what happened to me on the run was new.
After all of the training I have done this year, I kind of figured that nothing was beyond me. I've run marathons, ultramarathons, adventure races and well over 1000 miles in training. I've struggled and faced some demons along the way, but never wanted to stop.
So this week, on a long run, I set out to do 26.2 miles. I wasn't totally ready or prepared for it, it was going to be a night run and the decision to go came last minute, but any way you dress it up, I had it in me to do the run, so I did.
It was a ususal route on familiar roads and the first 11 miles passed without note. At the halfway point though, (13.1 miles in) I started to feel uncomfortable in my stride. My shoes felt wrong, the pace seemed to fast and yet slower than my target or usual pace. I pushed through this barrier and headed back out into the countryside. Still it was not right
17 miles in I stood at the foot of a large incline, halted in my tracks. My headtorch seemed to be dimming, the food I'd brought seemed insufficient and the water in my CamelBak just wasn't helping. I froze at the foot of the hill.
Staring up at the dark, knowing that I had miles to run and having to face the scariest realisation you can have when you are alone in the middle of nowhere and 9 miles from home....
"I do not want to be here".......
I tried running some more. I bested the hill and looked down at the road to take me home, but although my legs were still working and I had enough water to keep going, the fire had gone. After a few words with myself and a few aborted attempts at carrying on I gave up.
I got a lift home and spent the night worrying about how I'd react. I've identified myself as a runner for so long now that when I was faced with failure, it felt like a personal affront. If I can't run then what am I?
But on waking the next morning I felt surprisingly calm. I realised that I had met the beast that is failure and survived it. Not only that, but if I wanted to running has taught me that I can go away and train in new ways; train harder, smarter, better and come back stronger.
When met with this failure (and yes, 17 miles is a massive distance to run, but it wasn't the goal, so it is still a failure) I found myself taking a pragmatic and honest look at myself and understanding why I had failed.
I've not been training as much as I used to and certainly not as smart, training has lacked structure or development and as such has been more maintenance than progressive. Secondly, I've used long distance running as a counterbalance for over indulgence in food and drink for a while, so a few weeks off paid its toll quickly and I'm not in the shape I thought I was.
All of this, along with poor preparation and a fundamental lack of respect for the feat that is running 26 miles summed up to a perfect storm and left me stood by the side of the road, middle of nowhere, staring at the small pool of light cast by my headtorch.
I look back at the advice that I have given to you guys in this blog and realise that I have forgotten most of it myself. I stopped having fun and enjoying running. I started using it as nothing more than a lifestyle counterbalance to control poor diet choices and high stress levels.
I wasn't planning good runs on new routes or seeking adventure by discovering new trails any more. I'd become one of those runners who takes the whole thing far too seriously and paradoxically, for granted.
I'd found myself somewhere I'd never wanted to be.....alone on the road, running because I felt I had to.
But like I said, and may have mentioned before, running gives you stamina and a strength that can improve many areas of your life.
That moment when you fail does not have to be the end. It can be the nexus of your evolution. The spark that lights the fire in your heart to strive for more and to be better, faster, stronger.
Kids I wrote this blog because I wanted to show you How I Became A Runner and how it had a positive impact on so many areas of my life. I wanted to show you that I was successful at something and I wanted to make you proud. Of all the lessons I've tried to teach you and the things I have tried to pass on, the question always hung over my head. How would I know when it was time to stop writing it and when would I know how to tell you How I Became A Runner.
The answer was simple, I was a runner the whole time, but I got a lot better at it when I realised that failure is just a natural part of development and moving forward. I think I've always assumed that something would come along one day and stop me running. That I wasn't really a runner, just somebody who ran for a bit....
Truth is I was always a runner, I just wasn't always running.
To continue running and to become better at it I have a lot of work to do. I have to make fundamental changes to my lifestyle and start setting some real goals and challenges. I have to find the hunger for it, the fun in it and the sense of adventure I lost.
My last piece of knowledge to pass on to you? You can learn a lot more from a failure tahn when you succeed...
Kids, I hope you've enjoyed reading these. I've loved writing them. I don't claim to be good at it but when you have something to say, you're best to say it or no one ever knows what you thought.
Monday, 22 October 2012
Kids; running can be lonely sport. A lot of the time you're running by yourself and sometimes that's the appeal, but like many things in life you need to have the right support if you're going to achieve anything.
This support can come in many different forms, but when you find those willing to support you, make sure you keep them close and treat them right as they are the people who will enable you to succeed.
I'm really lucky in having support from a number of different angles.
Those who have a passing interest in my achievements at work and whose acknowledgement makes me realise that I am doing well.
Friends on Twitter, who prove an endless source of inspiration, support advice and humour.
The close friends who offer congratulations, opinion and concern but don't push you in a given direction.
My wife who supports me and allows me to disappear for hours (and hours) at a time to run ridiculous distances and spend my money on the required kit (and food). Kids,o yur Mum has brought you to the finish of some of my favourite races and never gives me grief about disappearing lycra-clad in the middle of the night.
And I have you kids who now seem so unsurprised at my achievements and challenges that it gives me the confidence to try newer, more difficult things. (eg. returning from an 18 mile run and being asked "not too far then?", or coming 6th in a race and being asked why I didn't just run faster....)
|Not a great picture outside a GREAT shop. Coffee, running and bikes... UNDER ONE ROOF!!!|
My Dad is no runner, he's a fit guy and although I won't say his age (it starts with a 6), he jogs with his dog and rides his bike daily and looks after what he eats (actually, my Mum looks after what he eats.)
Any way, my Dads involvement started in the Northants ultra35 back in May. At short notice, the guy changed his plans and drove me there. He then proceeded to drive to every checkpoint and offer comfort and concern (and water) every time. Knowing he was there and would be at the checkpoints gave me the confidence to push through many dark patches that day and complete what remains my toughest challenge.
At Grimsthorpe Ultra (40) he again stepped up to the plate, driving me there and this time took on a support role, supplying drinks, food, changes of footwear and the type of droll advice only a Dad can give (only ten more miles mate).
In the first of these races, he got sunburned and in the second he got soaked, but his presence at each event gave me the ability to succeed where I otherwise would have failed.
This weekend, with project 100 heading towards me like a steam train, I set off on my planned long run. An estimated 32 miler, all on road. Camelbak and food made in advance I set off at 6.30am and looked for a 6 hour out and back. Only this time I was not alone...
The run consisted of a two hour run, before adopting a 25:5 minute run:walk ratio. If I'm honest, I didn't feel like walking, I'd have rather kept running, for the first four hours I felt great and could have kept going a lot further at the faster pace. But I'm training to run 100k, not a fast marathon so I stuck to the plan.
The lessons learnt on this run were numerous. A lot about technique, more about training smart as well as training hard and finding your limits, but most importantly about being supported. Long distance running is a largely mental sport , so while food and water will feed the body, the best way to nourish your mind is through support. Whether that support is at home making coffee, a text from a friend or someone riding alongside you, it's priceless.
Kids, when you find something you want to do, the way I want to run, surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you and truly want you to succeed.
These are the people whose words will keep you going through the tough times;
whose presence will feel like an arm around you helping you to the finish line;
whose advice will see you make the right decisions when you mind is unclear;
And these are the people who will stand in all types of weather to cheer you on make you feel like a winner, whatever the result.
Oh and kids, if you ever take up running and want me to come out with you, choose a nicer route than the A5. It was cold, windy, dangerous and I saw more roadkill than people. But whatever route you choose, know that I'll be with you, offering drinks, advice, food and support in whatever measures you need.
Friday, 5 October 2012
Like art it's something which we each have our own interpretation of and need for.
Like art it can be a beautiful experience or plain hideous, it's in the eye of the beholder.
And like art, there are loads of people that will tell you its all about technique and ability, but for me running has to come from within and be something you enjoy doing. It's something you can experiment with, without risking harm to others. You have to find your own way of making it work for you and make sure its sustainable.
While I've been studying physiology and anatomy as part of my personal trainers course, I've been looking at body energy systems and about how muscles are fuelled. This along with Scott JUREK'S book Eat & Run got me thinking about how I fuel my running.
I've aquiesced into the use of energy gels in running. I've seen the adverts and the articles that tell you how good they are and never looked for an alternative. I've run ultras, marathons and halfmarathons on nothing but foil-wrapped sugar, flavoured with god-knows-what.
But with a huge challenge on the horizon I started thinking that I'm going to need to try new things out if I'm going to be successful.
The challenge is a 100km (approximately) run along a canal from Central London to Leighton Buzzard. Not satisfied with that being difficult enough, this is a small 4-man event with no official support or organisation. This is just 4 like-minded (read odd) guys who want to run 62 miles in the middle of winter.
So I started looking at the nutritional content of gels and also the energy cycles used in Ultramarathon running, especially at relatively slow pace. From a calorific point of view, the human body contains sufficient energy stores to run that distance. A lb of fat contains about 3500 k/cals and that's a lot of running, I've calculated that 62 miles will take about 8,300 k/cals. But what the body needs is carbs to metabolise (burn) the body fat. It also needs accessible proteins, fats and salts to maintain a healthy aerobic cycle. The gels started to look like an easy solution, but not perhaps the best.
From a psychological point of view I've also learnt that its important on ultras to like what you're eating. 10 hours of eating gels will leave you sick to your stomach and hugging a toilet bowl. Knowing there is something tasty waiting for you at the next checkpoint is a huge incentive to keep moving forward.
- You don't need gels to fuel you on longer runs, they're calorie dense and handy to use, but not the healthiest source of nutrition.
- Real food is great on the trails, there's less waste, it needn't be messy and it's a lot easier for the stomach to digest.
- By eating well on the go, you've already given your body the right components to begin the recovery and repair process of your training.
- Food tastes better when you're outdoors, cold and tired.
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Others will smoulder in the background, ever present, always driving you forward but without the ferocity.
Others will sit somewhere in the middle of the two, as driven and focused as the first and as long lasting and consistent as the second.
Running falls into this camp for me.
It's great to have things like the first type (I wanted to be in a rock band), they make life interesting and exciting. And our lives are filled with the second type (I love video games, always have, always will).
But running is the one that falls into the third category.
After my family, running is my raison d'etre. The reason I eat well, train hard, work shifts and sometimes even get up in the morning (especially early mornings).
And so it was that after my last marathon, which turned (technically) into an ultra I found myself as always asking the question your mother dreads most about my running. What next?
I had a few irons in the fire and a few races and runs I was considering, as I've mentioned before, have always wanted to run from London, back to home. SO when I started speaking to a friend about just such a run a few months ago, the seed was planted in my mind. And it's slowly grown and continues to take shape.
Currently the challenge a head of me looks like a 52 mile canal path run in early December. A four man team, almost totally self sufficient, will attempt to get this done, starting in the early hours at Euston and getting back before nightfall. I guess we have about ten hours.
The question I usually get before I do something like this is why.
Why do you do it?
For me this one is a culmination of things. After a number of ultras and varying experiences, I want to put best practises and my learning's together to achieve a positive result. I've said before about the importance of setting lots of goals and I learnt recently what happens if you fail to prepare. So this time I'm starting early.
The current situation:
I'm in good shape, coming off the back of three ultras. I have no injuries and am the leanest I have ever been. I have transitioned to minimalist footwear now and will need to get some non-trail shoes (I love the mud more than the road).
- Run 50+ miles.
- Aim for 5-6mph and finish strong.
- Complete the training programme, giving confidence in completing the challenge.
- Maintain current eating pattern and look to lose excess body fat (I'll have to carry it with me and it's a bloody long way!)
- Run as a team, finish as a team.
Like I said at the beginning kids, some passions are with you forever, constantly burning and lighting your life. In time the nature of them may change but it doesn't change the fact that they have a huge influence on your life and give you the most satisfaction. When you achive something at these long term passions, that is a great achievement.
My rock band never came to anything and I can take or leave a few hours on the PlayStation but when I have the time and the challenge ahead, running is like my default setting. It's what I return to every single time.
And sometimes people will ask you Why do you do it?
But after all of the hard work and the preparation, when you succeed, they ask you How did you do it?
And then you know you've achieved something great.
* I must give a shout out to JenJ @Jens_Itchy_Feet. A great blogger whose post inspired me with the phrase, "First they'll ask you why you do it. Then they'll ask you how you did it" So true.
Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Kids, by now I hope you’ve started to realise that in life you will face a lot of challenges and that if you prepare for them and try hard you will overcome most. And I wish I could tell you that all things are achievable, but sometimes you’ll come up against something that truly tests your mettle. A challenge that literally breaks you down to your component parts, strips you down, lays you bare and shows you what you are really made of.
I’ve faced a few of these in all aspects of my life and at some I’ve succeeded, at others I’ve failed. I’ve come to realise that as long as you learn from the experience, it’s a positive one.
Recently I entered a race which turned out to be more of a challenge than I had realised. Advertised as a trail marathon I wasn’t expecting anything easy. I’ve always said “respect the miles” and 26.2 is a number that commands respect.
But while it started as a hot and hilly trail run it went on to take me to breaking point and gave me one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in running so far. Here’s the story…..
The day before the race I had a horrible, stomach-churning realisation that for the first time in three years I didn’t want to run. I’d come off the back of a couple of ultras, I had nothing to prove to myself and wasn’t looking for a challenge. But seeing that my hometown running club was holding a trail marathon I saw the chance to have a new challenge. Having backed off the training for a while, “could I go out and run a marathon on the trails I’d spent three years running, with just two weeks’ notice?”
I’ve got to say I was nonchalantly confident. When people asked if I was ready I shrugged it off. Someone even tweeted me, asking if I was ready for it and I dismissed it with an “I’ve run ultras” comment. I forgot one of the most important rules of running, “respect the miles”.
With a fortnight to go, I trained hard for the first week, ran six days in a row and posted 40+ miles. I felt good, fast even, brimming with confidence and ready to race. But the second week was a different story. Work commitments and shift pattern meant working nights and little sleep. My diet was all over the place. I didn’t even know what shoes to wear, having recently transitioned to minimalist shoes.
With two days to go I found myself 4lbs over race weight and feeling lethargic and sleep deprived.
The day before the race I was going to a concert with your Mother and regardless of the fact I’d be sober, it would be a late night and I wouldn’t be well rested. It didn’t bode well.
Race day didn’t look any better and it was with a sense of foreboding that I set off to the start. A couple of bottles of water to drink, some gels that were scattered among my kit to fuel me and my Vivo Evo “barefoot” shoes.
Now I don’t know if I was just being pessimistic or beating myself up, but everyone at the start line looked fit and FAST! As ten o’clock rolled around I made my way to the start line and reluctantly waited for the bang to signal the start.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was heating up quickly, already 25 degrees. The pre-race warm up and stretch routine had made me break a sweat and with the thought of 26 miles hot and hilly ahead of me, the bang sounded.
And a strange thing happened. The pressure and the tension subsided. The doubt and the concerns started to disappear. A single clear thought was in my mind, “Ignore everyone else, run your own race”. The course went through some school fields across a small urban estate and quickly into rural countryside, the first obstacle a steep incline where the gradient increased the higher you got and I realised that on this part of the course at least I had a hometown advantage. I knew these hills. I’d run on them countless times. I’d cut my teeth on them. So while others powered on only to be drained, I kept a steady pace waiting for the summit and undulating summit that I knew followed. And this undulating course spelt out the next 5 miles. Working my way through the field and feeling lighter and stronger as the race went on. Aiming for 9 min/miles I continually found myself coming in just under and feeling great.
7 miles in the course enters woodland and forest giving a softer feel underfoot and a more involving run. This was most welcome especially in the minimalist shoes I’d worn. Past the first aid station, I’d started to flag a little with what felt like constant uphills and the still rising temperature. The exposed roots and rutted paths made ankles an issue but the barefoot shoes gave great preprioception and I stayed upright and light on my feet.
As the course is not marked out, runners are given maps, but advised to follow instructions written on four sheets of A4. I’d done this on a previous race so didn’t feel disadvantaged, but took some wrong turns early on, as did others when I went the right way. It was all part of the challenge and at first felt like fun.
About 15 miles in the fun stopped, then the motivation waned and finally my energy levels sunk. On reflection I’d got my fuelling strategy wrong, I’d not hydrated enough and I wasn’t prepared. I felt myself falling back through the group. I had been leading a small group for miles with direction and motivation, but now was at the back, disinterested and demotivated. I can only liken it to the movies where one by one the large engines on a plane start to fail and you can sense the drop in momentum and speed until eventually the nose dive starts accompanied by a whine and crash.
At my lowest point I’d lost my place on the route and map. I’d been at the back of the group for a mile and I wasn’t even sure we were going the right way. I came to the conclusion that if we’d taken a wrong turn and had to back track I’d throw in the towel and walk to the nearest town to arrange a lift.
I don’t know how long this moratorium continued for. I know I got to another aid station and took on water, an electrolyte tablet and jelly babies before setting off. I know that I kept talking to people and realised that no one near me was having a good day. But I lost about 90 minutes not really conscious of my situation.
When the fog cleared I was at mile 19. I’d entered a mile stretch of woodland, lots of shade and a cool, damp microclimate which was exactly what I needed. I turned to the last page only to see the course was just over 27 miles, not 26 and worse, my mistakes early on had added a mile. I was in for a 29 mile run and the course on the instructions was the shortest route back. I thought back to other races especially the ultramarathons and the mental effort required for those. I thought about the goals I’d set for this race and how I was still on target for most. I thought of the countless hours of training and running I’ve done and drew on this experience for strength and confidence.
I felt hot, but strong.
My feet felt good and legs, although heavy, were showing no sign of strain or injury.
I was hydrated enough to finish and was still with a group of others. I got my head down, focussed on form and technique and got a mantra going in my head.
Relentless Forward Progress. Relentless Forward Progress. Relentless Forward Progress.
At the last aid station, with 4 miles to go I felt great. I’d been running with a guy for miles. We’d found a comfortable pace and been overtaking others doing the marathon and 20 mile course. I knew I was going to finish and that is the main goal of these things. Whatever happened it would be successful. And then the little voice started asking “If you push a bit harder, could you be more successful?”.
2 miles left and my pace picked up. I knew the route and ditched the instructions. My partner was happy to coast to the finish and I was happy to find another gear. 27 miles in and I convinced myself that I was out on a short run. No target pace, no pressure. No one else. The pace dropped from 10min/miles to 9’s then I started seeing 8’s on my Garmin. Half mile to go and the country side gave way to urban sprawl and the promise of a finish. The final turn into the sports field and the finish flags waved me in. The applause and cheers of my family made the last 100 metres some of the easiest I’d ever run and a finish time of 4:47 and some change, while outside my target, was a good time for the race on the day.
At the finish, you guys were there for me along with your Mum and Grandad. As usual you all looked at me with a mixture of pride and concern. And I love you all for that.
So what did I learn that may help you out?
1) If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. I should have been better prepared for this and nearly paid for it. I should have had fuelling and hydration strategies sorted way before race day!
2) When your body wants to give up, your mind can carry you a lot further. It doesn’t matter how you do it: mantra, positive mental attitude or just lying to yourself about how far you’ve already run!
3) Running with others is very important on long distances. For safety reasons as well as motivational.
4) Run the race you are in. Plan all you like, but the weather and the route can mean you don't have the day you planned.
Most importantly though,
5) It’s good to know your limits and to be realistic with your abilities, but
6) It’s great to ignore them and push hard for the finish.
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
1-Brush your teeth/hair properly
2-Do you need the toilet?
3-Have you done your homework?
4-Turn the video game off and go outside! and
5-You haven't lost it, its exactly where you left it!
Now these are in no particular order, but you get my drift. Being a parent is the most amazing experience and fulfilling thing you can do interspersed with repetition, routine and more repetition.
But, and here's a big lesson for you, your parents aren't perfect. We are ALWAYS right but sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we should listen to our own advice.
NB. even when we make mistakes, we are still right!
I wish I had realised this a few weeks ago when I started to feel very despondent about running and began questioning why I was doing it. I always get like this when I have no events booked but everything is so manic at the moment it is difficult to find the time to book a run let alone train for it. I wasn't worried about these feelings but they hung over everything I did and nagged at my subconscious when I saw others runnig.
I had trained so much earlier this year, that after the last ultra I felt glad for a rest. In particular, I felt like there was one road, that I did a lot of my big miles on, that I was not going to miss at all.
I knew every feature of that road, every crack in the pavement, blind junction, squashed animal and piece of discarded rubbish. I ran my first 26.2 on this road. I've trained in the sun, rain, snow and ice on this road. I've thrown up on it, fallen on it, bonked on it and set personal bests on it. I have literally suffered blood, sweat and tears on it and when the excuse came to move on I thought I would be grateful.
But, here I am 6 weeks after my last race and to be honest I haven't run as much as I thought I would have. Not through a lack of passion for running but just a certain ingredient was missing. A little spice, a bit of mojo if you will.
Every run felt hard and without inspiration. My form felt weak and my pace was laboured at best.
I was starting to worry that I'd lost my mojo for running and was even considering (perish the thought) getting a cycle!!!
And this is when I wish someone would have said one of the phrases above to me. Maybe it would have helped or maybe it was something I had to discover/rediscover for myself.
After a few speed session recently, I went out early this morning for a 7 miler. No pace planned, just an out and back to get some miles under my belt. Turning out of the driveway, habit took over. The music stopped me from over thinking and my feet carried me back onto that same old road. I was a mile in before I realised how easy the running felt and how light on my feet I was.
I was three miles in before I realised I was maintaining sub 7:15 min/mile pace without collapsing and on the return route I dug deep on the hills to maintain the pace. Finishing the run with an average pace of 7:29min/miles.
This isn't fast for some, but for me its race pace on a 10k day, with good nutrition and hydration. This was half five in the morning fuelled by a banana and a glass of water!
Like so many things in life, we lose them sometimes and sadly, you lose some things forever. But whether its your video game or PE kit, your car keys or sunglasses, your best friend or your passion for doing something you enjoy, try looking where you last had it.
Chances are it is still there.
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Never be surprised or ashamed to ask yourself difficult questions about what you are capable of.
Once I had got to be a competent runner, I started asking myself these sort of questions.
"Could go faster or further?"
"Could I run a marathon?"
"Could I beat that last time?"
and the biggest one...
"Could I run an ultramarathon?"
At the time, these questions seemed difficult and somewhat impossible, like reaching for the stars or flying to moon. But with time and effort I answered these questions one by one.
I got thinking about this earlier this week when I was reading somebody else's account about running ultras. They said that the difference between running 6 km and running 60 km is all in the mind. At first I thought how untrue that was. It can't be as simple as having a positive state of mind. Surely it's all about the training and preparation...
I trained hard to run my first ultramarathon and I think that showed in my performance. I ran the whole course in challenging conditions and although it took longer than I planned (naively) I was still impressed with my performance after I was done. My training involved a 20 week plan, running 4-5 times per week with a mix of road and trail, speed and distance, interval and back to back workouts. I stuck to it as much as possible I got up in the early hours and ran through the snow and the rain. I did everything I could and at the end of the program I knew I had done all I could. But the question hung over my head....
"Could I run an ultramarathon?"
Looking back at my first ultra I now see that asking that question was just me identifying a weakness, maybe even a fear.
I've never felt comfortable putting myself out there and doing something exceptional. Running any distance is great. Running marathons is exceptional and running ultras is (believe me) exceptional.
The fear wasn't about running the distance or getting a DNF. It wasn't about where I'd place or getting an injury, it was about me achieving something, it was about being scared to put my hand up and say to everyone, "I've done something amazing, I've run an ultramarathon."
I contrasted this with my second ultramarathon, I maintained my fitness, but didn't train too much. I applied late in the day and wasn't particularly well prepared for the race. But I ran faster and harder in equally challenging conditions and placed much higher than my first. I finished stronger, recovered quicker and was much happier at the finish line.
The difference? I'd already done the hard work and answered the questions, now I was just doing it for fun and for the experience. I'd already accepted that I was capable of doing these things.
|Jake running his first 2k race, no doubts, just smiles.|
Thursday, 26 July 2012
Kids, part of the reason I run is to balance my mind and get perspective on all of the other stresses and strains that you face in life. When I started writing this to explain to you how I went from being a normal person, to being a person that runs, and finally How I Became a Runner, I realised that this was a huge part of it. One great piece of advice that I want to pass on would be find your happy place….
And I guess there are two strands to this, the actual happy place and the mental one. Let me explain….
1) The actual happy place. When I started running I ran on the roads. They’re the obvious place to start, well lit, flatter and drier than the trails; and initially less likely to cause you an injury. However the monotony of running on the same roads and the stresses that pavement running puts on my joints limited the lifespan of road running for me. So when I ran my first trail run, I knew that I had stumbled across something special. No more was I limited by the design of the roads or the condition of the pavement, suddenly my boundaries were set by how much time I had and how far I could run, I could choose to take each run to new places. I could take the steep incline, the grassy route, the gravel path or the muddy descent. I could make the run as scenic or as challenging as I wanted. I realised that the joy is in the journey to get somewhere and not just the destination.
I loved the sensation of travelling through the environment and being part of it, which can only come with running the trails.
Kids, my happy place is on the top of some local hills, we’ve been there dozens of times and I tell you that I love it most times. I love to be there because you can see to the horizon, you can see the roads and trails and paths on the earth below you, feel the enormity of the sky above you. From this place I feel like I have control to travel the earth by any route that I wish. Hugely empowering and totally humbling.
2) When I’m on the trails and in particular when I’m in the actual happy place, that’s when I get my brain straight. I never realised at first that running would have the mental health benefits that it has brought. It had started as a way of losing weight and then an interesting sport to see how I could improve over time. My moment of clarity came when I realised that for me running is about taking the road less travelled.
My “mental” happy place is the very beginning of a new trail, when you don’t know where it leads or where it comes out. It’s symbolic of the ability to start on a new path whenever you wish. Sometimes you know where you want to go and have specific goals. Other times your aims are shapeless and unclear, but in those first steps forward we understand the potential that we have.
So when I need to get my thoughts straight I know that running is there for me; like mobile counselling I guess. It takes me to my happy place and most importantly when I come home to you, I’m a happier and better person for having been there. Why do I need this help?Well, that’s a different story for another day, but we’ll get there.
I can go, either physically or mentally, to my happy place and recognise my place within the world. I get asked by a lot of people why I run. Maybe if I explained it like this, they would understand.
In writing this post I sought inspiration from others. When someone contacted me to say they had been through a similar realisation about trailrunning, the physical benefits they had found were amazing. The guy had found a real passion for running and seen massive improvements in their pace and distance. I think this person has a great attitude to running and the reasons he does it. Reading their account got me thinking about how trail running has benefited me.
Sunday, 15 July 2012
|All prepared and ready to run.|
When the race pack arrived and I saw my number was 33, coincidentally may age, I felt like fortune may be favouring me this time. A good omen or just coincidence, I felt like I needed something on my side. The race had been renamed the GrimReaper Ultramarathon and was starting on Friday the 13th of July. Some good luck had come my way in that my Dad had very kindly volunteered to crew for me. The race was 4 laps of a ten mile circuit on a 50:50 split of road and trail.
Lap 4) Inov-8 Roclite shoes. Strangely all pain had gone. I felt light on my feet, I started overtaking people and feeling good. I started recording sub 10 min/miles again and even overtook three people in the last 2 miles, including one on the final straight(sorry). I know it's about personal challenges etc. but I felt strong and competitive and everyone likes a race right?
But as usual, the running of a race and the time you get is only half a story, probably less than half.
Along the way I ran with some great characters, each with their own story to tell and reason to run. Some novice, some experienced, all totally individual.
I ran with:
A 20 year old lad who'd never run further than a half marathon before. He overtook me on a hill and seemed to be flying but was shattered at the top of the hill. I caught him and he was on lap 2 of 7 and looked like he was struggling. We spoke about walking up the hills to save energy, I hope he listened.
Two 49 year olds, one who was training to run 50 miles before he turned 50 and another who was on his second 100-mile race. 17 years older than me and matching my pace we ran together for a while. The 100 mile guy finished his first 40 just minutes after me, I hope he did well.
A twitter friend who I've wanted to meet for ages and was as kind and supportive in real life as he is online. A guy who has run ultra races before, but had a bad day and DNF'd. Doesn't even matter to me. He turned up, rocked it and made me push myself harder.
I saw a girl on the start line who looked totally ill-equipped for an ultra and she chicked me from the start line. Never saw her 'til I finished and she was already walking back to the car!
Others of all shapes and sizes getting round in their own time at their own pace, some walking some running, all completing an ultramarathon.
And I realised that what makes these events ULTRA is the willingness of those to participate or compete, and therefore I could do something ultra because I was willing to try.
Since finishing I got some great feedback and another one of those words used a lot but which I felt had lost meaning was mentioned several times.
|Tired, soaked and very happy!|
It's used a lot now, so much that I thought the word has been reduced in its depth.
I never seek to inspire others, only to try my hardest so that you kids can see that you can achieve anything if you try. But I guess it isn't our intention to inspire that counts, but the effect you have on others.
Each of the people I ran with inspired me. Some with kind words and useful tips. Others with their pace and form; giving me something to strive for. They probably never meant to but they did. I hope I inspired them and I hope I have inspired you. Sometimes, by no more than our own presence and participation we can inspire others.
So although some words have lost their true meaning, it is in the mind of the person using them how they are meant. For me this was an ULTRA marathon, it was AWESOME and I was INSPIRED.
NB. The GrimReaper Ultramarathon is a lapped course in the grounds of the beautiful Grimpsthorpe Castle. It is a mix of road and trails in a private estate and managed by a great team. On each lap you need to stamp a card twice and have those stamps verified at the start/finish/lap marker tent. It is one of the best organised events I have attended and I would and will recommend it to anyone. I will be going back next year with a better foot and looking to claim the scalp of a 70 or 100 mile ultra. A brilliant support crew and marshalls made for an astounding day.