Or a “running” commentary *snigger*
2013 has been quite a significant year for me. Most notably as it was this year that I finally decided to make a proper go at this “running” thing; as in actually start “entering” some events, instead of just running 100’s of miles all around the Peak District with nothing to show for it.
Let’s see, how can I sum the year up? …. 10 marathons, 2 ultras, a couple of 10k’s and a half marathon. That’s about the size of it.
I reckon to some people, that probably sounds like a lot. I also know a lot of people that would consider that nothing. I didn’t actually get started until April when I ran in the Manchester marathon, but this gave me the bug back after a 2 year gap since my first ever marathon in Tenby, 2011.
The weird thing about marathons, which I find utterly impossible to explain to non-runners, is that they are a bit…. More-ish. It gets to the point where once you’ve done an event, you start looking for the next one; until you suddenly realise you’ve got events lined up for the next 6 months… Here are 8 things in no particular order, that I have found and learnt (often the hard way) about running in my first proper competitive year doing it:
#1 Pay attention to the weather and dress accordingly.
It’s possible that I’m the only person quite stupid enough to make this mistake more than once. Nearly catching hypothermia from getting stuck several miles from home in treacherous rain, hail and powerful icy winds; wearing just shorts and a cotton t-shirt as protection.
The lesson I gave to myself here was: Unless you want to look like a trembling Smurf again? When the weather is bad, don’t just “assume” it will clear up. You live in England; it won’t…. You moron.
#2 Your brain is very rarely your ally in long distance running.
It tries to make you stop, constantly.
There are a number of little tricks it plays to convince you that you’re too tired to carry on. This is usually in the form of reminding you of all things you could be doing if you weren’t in so much pain. I’d say it’s worth sticking with it if you can; providing the pain isn’t an actual injury or something.
I’ve found that the brain seems to work in percentages (of what you’ve ran before). It panics and sends all the signals for you to stop, once it nears its perceived limit. Strange thing is, that normally once you’ve covered a new distance just once, your brain lets you off the next time you try it. Or at least that was the case for me when I ran my 2nd ultra-marathon just 2 weeks after my first one, which was 20 miles confortable, then 20 miles of sheer, perpetual agony. My point is: The brain is stupid….. Or maybe it’s just mine.
#3 Not doing the same kind of training 2 days in a row.
Just a guideline, but basically I’ve found that doing the same run consecutively doesn’t make me any better at it. Whereas If I throw a weights session or a speed set in between, it seems to work much better. I don’t get injured as often either, which is worth noting.
#4 Training on its own doesn’t do everything. Sometimes you have to eat good as well…
As much as it’s really funny to just eat what I want, and then seemingly “get away with it”. Running a lot kind of works a bit like that, but it was actually nicer when I experimented with this “diet and nutrition” thing I keep hearing people talk about, and getting much faster for it. Just feels like having a bit more energy, but all the time.
#5 You’re competing against yourself.
Which is good, because I’m really easy to beat.
I don’t care who you are, or how old you are. You can’t help trying to do a bit better than you’ve done before in some way.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to compete against other people as well; winning is well good! But what I’m saying is: if everyone is just better than you, there’s always something else to compete for. Worth remembering.
#6 No amount of good running can account for my sense of direction.
In races I get lost a lot; but I’m oddly confident while I’m blatantly running the wrong direction. I have learnt over the year to consider these incidents as “bonus miles”; so I get brilliant value for money in all my races. Last thing you want is to get angry about it. Anger makes you more tired….. It also leads to the dark side, and no one wants that.
#7 GPS watches are great!
I like GPS watches; they’re brilliant. Only problem is they don’t half make you feel more tired when you realise you’re behind the pace you aimed for. Sometimes it’s better to not look.
#8 And finally, my new favourite quote:
“Ultra-running is 90% mental…. And the other 10% is in your head”
I have no idea who said it; I just found it somewhere and decided to adopt it.
Have a great 2014 everyone! I’ve got a LOT of miles and events booked already, so hopefully will see a lot of you around….