Getting Out There

Ahhh the spring marathon, pounding the streets surrounded by the newly budding trees, and the hopefully improving weather to help guide you round that course to a comfortable finish close your target time.

However, this does mean that your training will have to take place in the late Autumn and whole of the winter.  Weather patterns in recent years mean it is becoming ever harder to discern clearly the seasons, but the chances of having to run in wind, rain, and cold are that much greater.  However, I find that a run in rain or on a crisp frosty morning is much preferable to running in the heat of summer.

This Sunday is the official start of Synergy’s Spring Marathon Training Programme covering those entered for the April and May Marathons – particularly Brighton, London, Paris, check runners world for other alternatives.

Notwithstanding the challenge of any training runs you undertake – hill repeats round Crouch End, or ‘Cat and Mouse’ on the fringes of Highgate – the key challenge for anyone seeking to run regularly is the challenge of actually getting out there.  Putting your kit on and, whatever the weather, making sure you stay true to your intentions and aims for your training to just get out and train.

Overcoming the desire to just have that little lie in, or stay in to watch that TV show, or even just because it seems too hard or it’ll hurt too much, I haven’t got the right hat, my kit’s not washed, there’s hills tonight…I’m just trying to get a link with my readers here… or it’s too dark, too cold, too rainy, too slippy, too foggy, too windy to get out there.

Everyone has felt like this at the prospect of a run, or even for an extended period of time about any physical activity, top level athletes too.

As Murakami notes:

“Once, I interviewed the Olympic runner Toshihiko Seko, just after he retired from running and became manager of the S&B company team.  I asked him, “Does a runner at your level ever feel like you’d rather not run today, like you don’t want to run and would rather just sleep in?”  He stared at me and then, in a voice that made it abundantly clear how stupid he thought the question was, replied, “Of course.  All the time!”  Now that I look back on it I can see what a dumb question that was.  I guess even back then I knew how dumb it was, but I suppose I wanted to hear the answer directly from someone of Seko’s calibre.  I wanted to know whether, despite being world’s apart in terms of strength, the amount we can exercise and motivation, when we lace up our running shoes early in the morning we feel exactly the same way.  Seko’s reply at the time came as a great relief.  In the final analysis we’re all the same, I thought.”

H.Murakami (2009)’What I talk about when I talk about running’ Vintage, London, p.46)

At the moment I’m loving it, the longer runs especially.

Sunday, I had the pleasure of experiencing the autumnal grandeur of the Parkland Walk x2, and Hampstead Heath running with three others.  With a gentle pace, we were able to take in everything around us and I finished with that great tired leg feeling, the glow of satisfaction at completing 20+k, and that amazing energised sensation that comes from feeling the oxygen and blood circulating through your body.

For me it gives me a lightness of step, a particular freedom from all the usual ramblings and thoughts in my head, and an intense sense of achievement.  Indeed, I’ve been asked what I think about when I’m running and the actual answer is not much (not even monster trucks or the perfect cover drive).  What seems to happen on those runs that go especially well is that you ‘run into the void’, a meditative state in which your mind just empties

However, I know this won’t always be the case.  I’ve now committed to training which will occupy me during the 22 weeks  (154 days) – yes that’s all there is – between the start of the training programme and its ultimate conclusion the London Marathon on 21st April 2013. That is the other marathon I’m now taking part in and it will be the same for anyone who is entering their own training programme to achieve the ‘marathon’ they want to run.

There will be times when it is a real challenge to get out there.  Murakami (if you can suggest other books to read about running or training to run – then please leave a suggestion in the comments section below, but he is a great read on it) calls it ‘the running blues’ and they often don’t make much sense to those experiencing them .

You know by getting out there you’ll probably feel great when you’ve finished, or will have ticked off another training list item.  But not doing it you’ll be worried about how you’re going to achieve your goal if “I don’t train”, lose your fitness, miss that target time, even stop running all together.

So how do you overcome it?

This is my 4th year of marathon training. The first two I did completely on my own (first) and mostly on my own (second).  The third was done as a member of Synergy as will the fourth.

What I noticed is that getting out there is part of the training itself because in my first marathon I hit a really bad patch and it was through sheer determination and an almost out of body belligerence that carried me through it to carry on running.  If I hadn’t done the training I wouldn’t have got through that.

So it’s preparation for those times, and it’s good to know that the challenge in your ‘target race’ will always be harder than overcoming the desire not to go out on a training run, because you have so much more at stake in your target race than any individual training run.  It’s therefore part of educating yourself about overcoming such challenges, so when they are there in your ‘race’ you’re better equipped to overcome them.

I found varying my routes and planning new ones – particularly longer runs – was a great way to overcome the blues.  Just the prospect of trying out a new route, particularly where I knew there would be a dramatic scenery change or something that would particularly reward me on the route – an approach to an iconic London landmark (running along the Thames is a particular favourite) or a particular view (that from ‘Kite Hill’ on Hampstead Heath across London or similar from the top of Alexandra Palace) make it worth the effort of the run itself.  And the fact it’s your route, can help you get those ‘trainered’ feet out the door.

Another version on this is taking your kit on trips away (business and pleasure).  Plan a route before you go and just hit the road – it can be great running in a completely new area.  For me this has included: the Lake District, Penarth, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Bolton, Crete, Barbados, Dulverton, Forest of Dean, Loughborough.

Clearly I’m reward focused as the prospect of a particularly foody treat is often a clear driver, but I’ve found that these have also radically changed switching dramatically from the post-race doughnut fest to the edible excitement of sweet potato falafels, houmous, cucumber, chilli sauce in a wholemeal pitta.  How ridiculously Crouch End is that?

A final approach focuses upon ‘how I’ll feel afterwards’ both physically (not immediately after, but in the hours after) when I feel I’ve really ‘used’ my muscles and body, basking in the ‘warmth or glow’ that comes from the muscles I’ve used to propel me along, and mentally.  As I said earlier this isn’t about me thinking about anything in particular but rather emptying my head of all the stuff we usually carry around with us for just a few minutes/hours (I’ll write a bit more about this in a future blog), because I also find this really helps my mood as well.   Giving me a real sense of wellbeing and a kind of tired happiness or even euphoria.

What I learn from this is that it is the focus upon what makes the training event enjoyable for YOU, or what gets in the way of it being enjoyable that contributes to the unwillingness to get out there.  However, the trouble is that it is not always rational, or even completely understandable and again I’m going to have to quote Murakami again because he captures and explains it so well:

“To tell the truth, I don’t really understand the causes behind my runner’s blues.  Or why it’s beginning to fade.  It’s too early to explain it well.  Maybe the only thing I can definitely say about it is this: That’s life.  Maybe the only thing we can do is accept it, without really knowing what’s going on.  Like taxes, the tide rising and falling, John Lennon’s death, and miscalls by referees at the world cup” (p.120).

So accept that this is the ‘other’ part of your training, your target is your ‘26.2 miles’ and the ‘race’ to get there from this Sunday is ONLY, 22 weeks long.  Use this to understand yourself and accept your barriers to going out training and you should be better prepared to overcome them.

No one said it was going to be a breeze did they?

So get your running shoes and let’s hope Waitrose have the sweet potato falafels in again, otherwise it might be back to doughnuts again.

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About Simon Tanner

Seven time marathon runner, having run Brighton x5 and London x2, finally got a London ballot place after 7 consecutive attempts. I try to write about things I'm going through / have gone through in training to help others attain their running goals.
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One Response to Getting Out There

  1. Karen R-A says:

    Feeling inspired to come to running club tomorrow!

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