What do you think about when you run?
I have been asked this question a few times recently as a result of people enquiring how my marathon training is going (well I'm sure they asked but maybe I'm becoming a marathon bore....you know when you are training well when remarks go from...you are looking fit....to.....you look a bit gaunt. Are you ill?). It's generally a question asked of runners by non runners. A runner would never ask such a question!
So what do I think about when I run? Its a hard question to answer. For me it usually involves thinking about how I'm running, how many miles to go, am I on the right pace, hows my heart rate. Occasionally its about family, forthcoming events, planning things, work...in fact anything really!
I recently read this book by Murakami. Its an extraordinary book full of snippets of inspiration and thought provoking statements. Its not a book that will teach you how to run faster, or how to train for a marathon but it does help you understand that golden nugget of a question..Why do I run?
" It doesn't matter what field your talking about - beating someone else just doesn't do it for me. I'm much more interested in whether I reach the goals that I set for myself, so in this sense long distance running is the perfect fit for a mindset like mine"
"Most ordinary runners are motivated by an individual goal, more than anything: namely a time they want to beat. As long as he can beat that time, a runner will feel he's accomplished what he set out to do, and if he cant then he'll feel he hasn't. Even if he doesn't break the time he'd hoped for, as long as he has the sense of satisfaction at having done his very best - and possibly having made some significant discovery about himself in the process - then that is itself is an accomplishment, a positive feeling he can carry over to the next race"
Its been a while since I read a book that made me think as much as this one. It put into perspective years of running and the fact that even after all these years I still have that urge to put my running shoes on and go for a run. I know that most of my best running years are behind me but there is still that motivation to beat that time...its just that the times are inevitably going to get a bit slower as the inevitable ageing process kicks in.
That said the goal that motivates me at the moment is the marathon. This will be my fourth road marathon. Previous runs of 2-48 (London, 2000), 2-52 (Nottingham, 2005) and 2-46 (Sunderland, 2012) have all been tinged with an underachievement - injury in the build up, injury in the race, hitting the wall early, lack of pace judgement, not enough training etc etc.
What they all have in common is the process. They have all been a learning experience and have all contributed to my experience as a runner. My build up to Chester in October so far has been excellent. Ive concentrated on three key sessions a week.
Long runs up to 23 miles finishing off at marathon pace
Weekly tempo type runs of up to 10/12 miles at or close to marathon pace
Interval based session on the track with variable recoveries.
What has really made the difference this time around is a focused build up with recovery built in to make sure I hit the key sessions, lack of distractions (last year I tried to build up to an Autumn Marathon AND complete a track season - the result...persistent hamstring problems! - hindsight is a wonderful thing!). Ive found a routine that works for me. Or rather I have travelled so far down a journey and only time will tell whether that journey has been successful. Taking a leaf out of Murakami's book the process has been one of discovery and even if I don't achieve what I set out to do then at least I have added some more experience to the pot!
Away from marathon training I enjoyed a visit to Albert Park run on Saturday. Having done the very first park run at Albert Park in 2008 (crossing the line first in 17:27 with 26 runners taking part) it's always nice to go back and enjoy the atmosphere. Over 5 years on the whole parkrun initiative has grown massively and it was amazing to see 235 finishers there this week (and this was a quiet week!). I crossed the line first again in 16:54. My next park run will be my 50th in total - I'll wear my T-shirt with pride!