Can’t run, but I can write

So that’s Christmas and New Year done.  I’ve just entered perhaps the most frustrating part of any training when I’m denied the chance to run when I’m absolutely desperate to get out there.  So alongside the great books about running (at last some new material to draw upon for future blog entries) Santa in his infinite wisdom brought me a particularly attractive chesty cough which has now laid me low for ten whole days.

I had every intention of running during the Christmas and New Year break and everything was set fair for this to happen with a Christmas break in Aldeburgh offering the opportunity of my favourite training runs along the sea.  Bit stiff after the Christmas indulgence, I stepped out on Boxing Day morning but the body was not willing at all grinding to a halt of walking rather than running after about 4km.

OK I thought I’ll walk off the lethargy and see if I can resume.  Pace picked up, but this was far below anything near a long run pace let alone anything else.  So I returned feeling less than rewarded, and in no way happy with my performance.  From then on I was racked by illness which has made me feel less like a runner than at any time in the last four years of my running pursuits.  Indeed, I haven’t felt less like running than I have in recent days.

However, seeing the tweets and Facebook entries about the resumption of marathon training I’m now wracked with jealousy of my running buddies’ chance for the long run tomorrow.  So why has this come back?

Well firstly it’s about feeling the capability again.  Knowing I’m not going to be wracked by my barking cough if I pick up my pace above walking.  Secondly it’s the denial of the opportunity – I didn’t pack my kit for a work trip to Loughborough or a family trip to Bolton.  When I left I wasn’t feeling anywhere near well enough to even contemplate a run, but now that’s changed and I’m now jigging around desperate to get out again.

Finally, I’ve been inspired by some of the young athletes I was lucky to interview over the last two days.  I’ve been working at the National Talent Orientation Camp run by the Youth Sport Trust.  This camp aims to work with young athletes aged 14-18 to help them develop the attitudes, understanding, and motivations to reach the top and hopefully be those future Olympians and Paralympians we’ll watch on our TVs at Rio 2016 and beyond.

I spoke to one young athlete – a Paralympic Table Tennis player – his enthusiasm for what he was aiming to do (represent Team GB at Rio in 2016) was particularly infectious.  He missed out on a surprise London 2012 place at the age of 15 by just one position to his best friend.  However, he got to attend activities at the Paralympics as part of the Inspiration programme and this has just spurred him on to reach his goal in 2016.  And he is predicted to achieve a medal should he make the cut.  What was particularly inspiring was his delight in pursuing the dream, in defeating able bodied players whether playing in his wheelchair or not – which he has done at county level tournaments – and the sheer joy he took from indulging in his favourite sport.

What this sparked for me was the realisation of how much I was missing the opportunity to run, but also that I had let my desire to continue my training to override the reality of how my health was on that Boxing Day.  I hadn’t honestly said to myself that I shouldn’t run because I didn’t feel well enough, but rather I was aiming to ‘get out there’ just for the sake of it.  The act of getting out there overrode any sensible thought about whether I was fit enough, healthy enough to go out training.  The resultant run showing clearly to me that I wasn’t healthy enough to run and should have rested, instead of just going out.

Now I know this seems to go a little against what I have said in previous blog entries, but I see it a little differently because of the lesson I have learnt again about listening to my body.  Firstly, I knew deep down I wasn’t really fit enough to run.  I was run down through the onset of my cold but my drive to keep training took me out when it may have been much more useful to have listened and rested instead.  Secondly, I’m now a little more cautious about my return although my level of frustration about not running at the moment is making the denial of the long run tomorrow really, really, hard to bear.  However, I’m going to be very sensible and return gently building up distance and speed until I feel fully recovered.  That way I can resume my training close to where I left off and not undermine all the good work I’ve done so far.

This is a big lesson to learn – tempering the frustration of the desperation to run with the important realisation that to resume too heavy a running load is to risk injury and perhaps a health relapse which really will undermine the training programme.

To end let’s marvel at the first few pages of one of the running books which has already raised questions in my own mind about how exciting my own blog is.  The stats are really flattering on views so I’m assuming there is something here to read and all the comments I’ve had have been great, but there does seem to be a particular style to some running books.

So far in my blog I haven’t had any blood unlike the first 30 pages of the Christmas running read which has incorporated bleeding nipples and the passing of blood as extreme dehydration of the runner in question leads to the breakdown of his liver.  But then who needs real blood, metaphorical blood is enough for me.  Let’s stick with the angst I’ve felt today.  Yes it hurts, yes it’s really frustrating, but something new has opened up.

And if the special recipe Ginger tea (feel the burn!) brewed up by my mother in law works  I’ll be back on the road in no time and all this will be a distant, but important, memory.

So when you’re fit revel in the runs.

Not fit?

Rest and resist the desire to run anyway.  It could do more harm than good and running is better than writing anyday, anytime.


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.
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