Painful Realism – Running for Fun?

At the end of the run on Sunday one of my running companions said “I can’t believe how hard that was, I was running 26k a few weeks ago”.  This got me thinking that most of the time these sessions are hard, they hurt, and can be painful.  Not in the dreaded ‘oh no I’ve hurt/pulled/strained something’ way, but in the physical effort hurt/pain kind of way.

Up to now, I’ve written about the great feeling I get from running and the challenge of getting out there, hoping to inspire with an emphasis upon what you get from it.  Trouble is, that doesn’t quite cover it all, especially when the session is really hard.  So, perhaps, it’s time for a little bit of realism. Forewarned is forearmed, I’m hoping, but again I find myself focusing upon the internal dialogue when I’m running.

Looking at it this way, I’ve realised that most of what I hear from that internal dialogue seems to be my body berating me for having the sheer temerity to get out of the door and start the latest training run.  This takes a number of forms ranging from the suspicious tone ‘what’s this about again’, or the warning tone ‘I told you that knee/calf/foot/neck?!? was too stiff, you’re just going to aggravate it’, to the illusory ‘you’re just too tired to do this’.  You can also add your own in here I suspect?  Please??

I’ve found in previous marathons the inner dialogue is there, and even louder at certain stages of the race, in particularly hard sections urging you to come to your senses and just stop right now what you are doing.

But I’ve overcome it, and even found that it has worked to ignite my determination to prove it wrong as I’ve pushed myself to the finish line.  For me, the hardest part of any run is the first ten to twenty minutes.  It usually goes like this…

I’ve foam rollered, I’ve stretched and warmed up, got out the front door and there I am still clunking, clanking, and chugging onwards finding it all incredibly hard.  However, what I know is that my ‘body’ will relent and I’ll slowly find a rhythm and then I’ll feel the smoother progress of my feet across the ground. Not Mo like, but at least something passing for the gait of a runner.

I suspect anyone with even the vaguest appreciation of psychology, or psychoanalysis, will be diagnosing me now and hopefully offering some helpful tips on overcoming this internal dialogue in other ways.  However, it’s always there (for me at least) so why not look at how it could be used positively?

One way I see my training runs now is to view them as an opportunity to train my body and its internal dialogue to accept that I have decided to do this running thing, aiming to cover the required distance in a specific time.  I’m basically saying to myself “This is what I’ve decided to do, get used to it”.

As an example, I draw inspiration from Eddie Izzard who ran 43 marathons in 51 days for Comic Relief in 2009.  This was an exceptional effort for a man who was not an experienced marathon runner.  Indeed, his medical prior to the feat suggested it was extremely unwise for him to even attempt it, given the relatively little amount of training he had done up to that point.  And yet, through sheer persistence over the first week of the challenge he cajoled, remonstrated, and demonstrated to his body this was what he was going to do for the next 40+ days.

What I noticed from watching the TV programme about the event was that there was a subtle shift in his running style/form from the very early days and hours where he clearly resembles to me how I must look in my clunking, clanking first 20 minutes of my training runs to the point around day 7 where his running form seems to completely change as his body ‘gets’ what he is trying to do and relents to allow him to adopt the smoother rhythm that comes from good training and preparation.  This is what sports science defines as the ‘training effect’.

You can see this transformation visually from Part 1 here:

Through Parts 2, 3, and 4 here:




Into the final part showing the final action up to the finish in Trafalgar Square here:

One other interesting thing to notice is, just how quiet Trafalgar Square is when he leaves to start his deeply impressive endeavour and how this compares with the truly gripped nation for his return.

So what comes out of this, to help me and others in their ‘running endeavours’?

Firstly, it’s another way of listening to your body so you can know what to expect come race day and prepare your strategies for overcoming it, so you can achieve your target.  Secondly, look at what the protests are focussed on and work at strengthening that area for the future.   Whether working on physical strengthening, or strengthening your psychological response – my ‘run strong’ chanted mantra has helped me loads here in the past (I might talk about that one in another blog). And finally, it’s about training yourself about pacing and rhythm so for those longer runs you learn to maintain a steady, consistent pace which really gives you the best possible chance of completing that longer distance.

To end, I’m going to shamelessly use someone else’s insight/epiphany which I’ve adapted to shoe horn it in here.  I’m always looking for something other than Murakami to back up what I’m trying to get across and I thought this was great.

So consider this…Runners come in all shapes and sizes, by deciding to get out there you are ‘qualified’ to run.  And, even in the worst case scenario, even though the ‘pain’ might suggest otherwise (assuming your Dr has said it’s ok for you to run), you won’t burst into flames and die the moment it starts to seem harder to run than anything else in the world.  I’ve searched YouTube and so far there’s no footage to suggest this has happened to anyone…..yet.

Eddie Izzard ‘qualified’ 43 times in 51 days, why not start taking the exams?


About Simon Tanner

Eight time marathon runner, having run Brighton x6 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, whatever the distance.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Painful Realism – Running for Fun?

  1. David Smith says:

    That is a truly inspirational article. I’m running in my first London maratho 2013 for thirteen years. I’m now in my mid forties and I’ve found getting motivated so much harder.
    Thank you for providing a focus.
    David Smith, surrey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s