This coming Sunday is the Royal Parks Half Marathon. A race I approach positively as I have trained for it on this occasion. Instead of the usual end of the year ‘oh I’ll just trot round, enjoy the event and not really worry about the time’ thing, I’m setting myself the target of another personal best time (watch that come and bite me on the arse on Sunday). I’m ready and looking forward to a race in cool conditions which will hopefully help my pursuit of my goal.
However, I started thinking about the motivation. Why am I doing this again? Why take on the running of 21km, 13.1 miles, for the 5th competitive time, all at the Royal Parks event.
It was the first half marathon I ran back in 2009 when I was still flush with early racing joy yet to be tempered by the full marathon training experience. Why get back into the training? Why do all the kit stuff again? Why write another blog entry? Why slog up that hill or take on that tempo run?
What is it that keeps me wanting to do this stuff?
It has interesting parallels with some of my work at the moment that involves looking at the reasons why individuals aren’t physically active and the implications of that for their health and wellbeing. Why, when the evidence is so overwhelming of the benefits that physical activity brings and the detrimental effects that can occur if you’re not, do we resist doing something that can bring such benefits to us. What stops people in this situation?
It’s important that I make clear here that I’m not advocating that everyone leap from their chair and start running half, or full, marathons – that’s never been the intention of this blog, rather it’s about helping to make people more active.
I’m looking here at what we can learn from this to identify solutions when we get stopped around any physical activity, or extending ourselves physically. What’s missing that means doing something else is so much easier than the health and wellbeing improving stuff? What’s not there that means we’ll avoid pushing ourselves to be active and spend that time sedentary, not moving? Why sit, not shift?
If I had a solution then I wouldn’t be sat (irony alert) here writing this, I’d have made my fortune already. It is taxing Governments around the world as they seek to address the impending health crisis that will surely arrive unless our lack of physical activity is addressed.
Individually it is solvable. It’s ultimately about identifying rewards, aspirations, motivations, fears, wishes a number of them, varied and exciting, enrolling, that support us across a range of situations, circumstances, and feelings that get in the way of us being physically active.
So why do I do this?
Running brings me joy. I’m not someone that has a particular natural sporting ability and yet I have found that I can be a reasonable runner if I put the effort into my training. What you put in, you get back.
I have come to revel in the positive feelings, the raised spirits, that I get from the running I do and actively miss them when not getting my ‘fix’. It underpins my mental health and gets me out of the low feelings I feel come on if I have denied myself the opportunity to run. I think I’m a better person because I run and it frees my head of the everyday shackles of day to day living, the stresses and strains of work.
I’m desk based in much of my work so the opportunity to get away from that sedentary island is one I welcome and I will actively seek out the opportunity to run in places I visit. New routes, views, and scenery excite me and the chance to see somewhere new or infrequently visited from a different perspective whilst out on a run.
I feel fitter and more alive and my body shape is one that now holds less concerns for me. I love the feeling of tiredness post run, and the draw to more restful sleep it brings. I enjoy the internal feel of the great stretch/roll post run as aches and pains ease and my body acknowledges my efforts. I love the hunger post-effort, the sense of reward of refuelling rather than just eating, the joy a simple, healthy, mix of protein and good carbohydrates can bring, being sated with food rather than just full. Rehydrating and the sense of the body welcoming simple water, no need for extra flavours or additions.
That sense of achievement when finishing the race and the delayed joy when a personal best is confirmed by the official race time. The celebration with others as they complete their race, the camaraderie with training partners, the shared endeavours and training. I enjoy the excuse to get dressed so differently, to choose footwear and clothing especially to run in (welcome to kit whoredom).
I revel in the opportunity it gives me to be healthier, to reduce my risk of certain diseases and to be less scared that my health will deteriorate, and that I will be active for the rest of my life.
And then some days I’m still not sure why I do this, and I suspect there will be times on Sunday when the wondering ‘why?’ runs round loudly in my head, but I’ll keep facing it down till the next time and trust I’ve found my solution (for now).
Work and find yours, it’s there and you know it. Just recast, reinvent, it and find your route to being active the positives far outweigh the challenges of getting there.
Run well, run strong………….