So this blog was an idea that started and then failed, which isn’t the most positive way to start proceedings again but I guess I’m often a little too honest for my own good! Belonging to a running group on facebook, the runners who constantly talk about their own running eventually start to irritate me, so a blog of simply talking about my own running would be hypocritical and super boring. Sure, some real-life stuff to give it a framework and ongoing story is fine, but just discussing run after run after run is not cool. It’s why non-runners (and probably a good percentage of runners) hate runners.
Fortunately, inspiration and motivation (minspiration?) arrived in the form of my good friend Gretel, who had recently started a blog with her friends that was really fun and, well, fun! It pretends to be a blog about wine, but really it’s a wonderful romp through life as experienced by 3 buddies. Check it out: http://wewine.co.uk/
It looks great as well…but I digress.
Gretel asked me if I would like to answer a few questions about running to put on their blog. Gretel has actually trained for and run a half-marathon of her own making to prove something to herself, so she certainly doesn’t need my advice! But I was flattered to be asked. So here are the questions they asked, with my responses. It didn’t quite scratch the surface of all my thoughts and opinions on running but I may come back to this in future and add more.
1) When did you start running?
The summer of 2007; probably June. I was working away constantly and was really missing the indoor football I’d got used to over the winter.
I tried doing some keepy-uppy in the park but that sucked (because I sucked at keepy-uppy). I read every football magazine cover to cover. And then I thought,” if nothing else I can at least keep my fitness up”.
It was an absolute revelation; I loved it! I came back hot, sweaty and totally buzzing! I never looked back while I was working on that job, I ran every other workday and really missed it the days I didn’t run.
I stopped that September after getting shin pain; I’d been running badly in terrible shoes and really had no idea what I was doing.
I started again in 2008, actually bought some running shoes, and from then on I’d like to think I’ve been running more often than not. However I’d guess it was 2009 while studying a Masters degree where I had the time and got really motivated.
I ran my first races in 2011 and found I actually wasn’t a terrible runner and then over that winter joined my current running club (the South Molton Strugglers, represent!) and that really changed me from a casual runner to a racing runner, which I would recommend to everyone!
2) What motivates you to stick on some trainers and get out there?
My relationship with running has changed and become more complex over the years. (I started writing a long response to this but then it dawned on me that maybe I should save that for question 3 as you can’t consider one without another!).
Simplest way to put it is self-improvement and competitiveness. That sounds so serious! And hideously self-involved…. but unfortunately it’s the truth!
It’s not as awful as it sounds; once you join a running club, start racing and establish yourself, the way you view yourself and your achievements changes profoundly.
For example, I never thought I’d ever run a marathon, it was never in my mind when I was younger. I couldn’t have told you anything about one. Then in 2013 I ran a qualifying time for automatic entry into London Marathon and all of a sudden you’ve set yourself a new benchmark to try and maintain, or ideally, better.
Runners go one of three ways:
1 – They dabble and stop. They feel it’s something they should do but their heart isn’t really in it. Who knows, maybe that’s 50% or more of people who buy running shoes! I’m sure a lot of people try but stop for a multitude of reasons.
2 – Another group will run purely for their own fitness and satisfaction and may only race infrequently, if at all. Some people don’t like the idea of racing, or running with/against others.
3 – The final group are those most likely to join clubs, race often and talk about Personal Bests, etc. For this group running may still be fun but it becomes training. You are trying to get faster and tougher and to not run is to go backwards. It can be a slippery but very awesome slope. I’m in this group. It can be difficult to maintain perspective sometimes, but that’s a whole other topic!
3) Are there ever days when you really just don’t want to do it, and how do you change that??
The short answer, is yes! There are plenty of days I don’t want to run. When I hit bad patches a week or two could go by with me making excuses for not running!
Motivation is tricky for everybody and it is a complete myth that the better a runner you are, the more easy it is to run those miles. If anything, the better you get, the more pressure you can feel under, as you don’t want to lose what you’ve gained!
I guess running is much like a relationship; at first it’s all amazing, exploring this new thing that you are able to do. That honeymoon period can last a long time depending on the person, how often you run, how hard, etc. But then something negative can strike; loss of motivation, injuries, disappointment, lack of time, winter, life change. Once you lose that initial buzz of pride and excitement it’s hard to properly get it back again.
The answer to getting over humps, be it not wanting to get out for one run or for two weeks is ALL IN YOUR HEAD! I try to focus on a couple of things:
1 – How good those first few steps feel. Running feels good. Maybe not every step of every run but I find that the first few steps give me a little boost of adrenaline and I’m instantly awake and alive. Good to try and remind yourself to remind yourself of how the bits you enjoy feel!
2 – How good the achievement feels. Whether it was rainy or sunny (sunny is better though) you have been out in the world and run! You’ve done it! You’re home, you’re stretching and you can feel a buzz of pride that daily life doesn’t supply very often. Am I right or what?! It’s delayed reward but a totally sweet one that often lasts longer than the run by a long way.
3 – How it affects my mood. Often I can be tired and cranky after work and if I have a long time without running I get a bit like Bart Simpson in that episode when he misses the summer holidays with a broken leg.
Running actually energises me and makes me a nicer person. This doesn’t always happen and I used to run with an ex who, to begin with, would actually get a bit wound up when we ran. Maybe it was me…
But generally the mood enhancing effects of running are well researched and I would recommend it to anyone, I never stress when I run and it wakes my mind and body up.
There isn’t really a magic formula but a few other tips are to get your running kit out in advance; don’t give the lazy bit of your brain time to negotiate! Kidnap your brain and body, get it out of the door in your running kit and then keep going! And don’t put pressure on yourself, just promise yourself you will take it how you feel when you get out there.
4) What’s your number one thing to do the night before a long run?
Now this is a totally easy one! Sleep properly and be hydrated. It’s that simple! Your body can do so much more than you would ever believe if you give it the chance.
5) How do you cool down after a run?
Another simple one. If I go out to do a structured hard training session I will always finish with a mile run at a really slow, easy pace. Then I might leave myself a little walk back to my house and then do a couple of stretches outside, Once in the house there is about 10 minutes more stretching
I actually really struggle to keep my body temperature up when I’m cold or wet so a lot of the time I actually need to worry more about how to warm up after a run! After long runs I often have blue lips and need to sit in a hot bath! But I know a lot of people actually find running overheats them.
In which case aim to finish a little shy of your eventual end location (home…) and wind down to a gentle jog, then a walk. Give your legs a gentle swing out. Once you’re in the house, don’t collapse but try and do some stretching and drink little and often. A lot of fruit can be really thirst-quenching, try putting some grapes, pears or melon in the fridge to have straight after.
If you’re me, you’re desperate for some chilli and a pot of tea…
6) What’s your best piece of running advice (for us and for everyone)?
Just one?! Run light (and easy). Or read Born to Run, which is where that slightly truncated advice is taken from.
Seriously though, run light and easy. Your feet are these amazingly complicated constructions of bone designed to help absorb impact if you land on the front of the foot. Some people will give you some BS advice about running; I was initially told the correct technique was to land on the heel and “roll through” to the rest of the foot.
Think about the make-up of your legs. When you hop you hop on your toes. Never your heels. imagine how much impact would get fired directly up your legs into your knees!
So no matter how you think you run, there is nothing that means you have to stomp, land flat or land heavy. It might feel like more work but that’s nonsense, you can already lift your legs up and down and move yourself about. A lot of people think they aren’t runners, they aren’t fit, all they can do is land flat and heavy and it’s just not true. You are in charge of what your legs and feet do.
There are lots of exercises to help make it more natural but I would recommend simply practising, gently at first, short distances to get comfortable and build up the relevant muscles which will be taking the impact rather than your knees.
Remember that no matter what the blurb says, no running shoe protects your knees from the impact of running. Seriously. Find the bit in the description of your shoes that says that. It doesn’t because they can’t. You need to do that by running light and easy. Float.
(If I could sneak one more word of advice in, it would be, if you plan on running regularly, treat yourself like an athlete! Health and fitness are not the same thing. Give your body the tools to be awesome; making it do physical activity and then not giving it the tools to heal and strengthen is sort of pointless. Be mindful of your body, how you treat it in all ways).
7) What’s the next running event you’re signed up to?
The next I’m signed up for is London Marathon 2016! I watched other people run it in 2013 and it blew me away. It’s massive! It’s got to be one of the biggest and best supported running races in the world, where anybody can get in and run the same course as some of the greatest athletes competing each year. After turning up as a spectator I made it my aim to qualify, having missed the window to get in via the ballot. I managed to run a qualifying time in another marathon later in 2013 and ran it for the first time last year, where I succesfully re-qualified. I will have my fingers crossed to do the same again this year. As a runner, once you’ve seen it, it’s like nothing else. It’s a real privilege to be able to do it just because I can ‘run good’.
The next race I will actually run will probably be the Bampton to Tiverton in Devon on March the 28th, a very old road race in the classic ‘town to town’ style. I currently live in Bampton and had a really cracking race last year, eventually ending up 4th, beating a club-mate by a second in a brutal final mile where we had one heck of a duel! Racing is never about winning, it’s about the experience.
8) And finally, obviously running and alcohol are generally frowned upon (at the same time). But at wewine, we’re all about the drinking (not so much the running). Is there any alcohol you like to treat yourself to?
Well look, I can’t lie, I generally don’t drink much. But a bit of alcohol as a treat every now and again is how I operate and living in a county full of hedgerows I have been making a lot of fruit-infused liquers the last few summers. The Sloe Gin I made last year wasn’t the best I’ve ever had; I had a little batch of Blackberry Whisky which showed some promise. However the two surprises were a Rose-Hip Gin, sweetened with brown sugar, which I only made a tiny amount of but tastes like toffee with a really smooth finish… I also re-used my whisky-steeped 2014 blackberries, adding them to some Cream Sherry which has worked out very nicely indeed! Not much of the first batch of that left…
Failing that, I do like a good independent brewery bitter, especially a stout, but shared with a friend rather than the whole bottle. I find those complex flavours are best in small amounts, losing definition over the course of a whole pint. (Oh wow, did I just write that?!)
As for wine (this is for a wine blog, right?) one glass of a good red will hit the spot; two is too acidic for my palate! Rose does nothing for me, and in a white wine I like it sweet. In fact, I spent a week in the Czech Republic with friends before running the Prague Marathon and people in a lot of the villages there make their own alcohol. I tried some local white wine and I’ve never tasted anything better. Crisp, sweet and refreshing. And very more-ish. aybe you girls could track some down? Will swap for some Devon fruit liquer…
And as a final though, there are a few races which involve drinking. Maybe more on that next time? Look up the Marathon du Medoc in the meantime…