|Still running…still learning, the #Leeds10K and a dying wish.
||[Jul. 12th, 2015|01:41 pm]
I’ve been running fairly regularly now since the end of 2007 when I started training for the London Marathon the following April. I go through peaks and troughs, some of which are health related and some are good old fashioned laziness. But I always return to it. I’ve had periods when I’ve concentrated on faster 10K times and other times it is all about endurance. I’ve focussed on running consecutive days and trained for a hilly ultra marathon. And there’s been a year of triathlon training thrown in for good measure when the running was just about surviving after the two disciplines before it. Through all these years I learn different things about myself and my running, from both a physiological perspective but also emotionally. Sometimes I am re-learning things that I’d forgotten.|
At the moment I am in the midst of a fundraising challenge to run the equivalent distance of Land’s End to John O’Groats (603miles as the crow flies) so this is tending to be lots of solo running, normally around 6miles a time and generally in the immediate vicinity of my house (along a canal). When I’m doing these miles I am, most of the time, wearing my headphones and enjoying some upbeat tunes. Music is powerful to me in invoking memories, people and places but also the right beat at the right time can really lighten my legs. It helps me put my head elsewhere and work through anything that needs some thinking time. Often I’m not even focussing on the music, I probably couldn’t tell you what songs had been played.
Running with music is a relatively new thing to me, I’d always kind of scorned people that had, as though they couldn’t cope with the raw reality of pushing themselves whilst running. But in recent years I’ve found that solo running is made a little more comfortable with music (or even audio books on occasion). I still never race/run events with music though.
This weekend I set out for a run and within a song my iPod battery ran out. I foolishly had left it on between runs and the juice was all juiced. Still, I tucked it in my pocket, opened my ears and embraced the opportunity to reconnect with nature and life that was going on around me. I heard birds, swans, people walking with children / dogs, other active types on the river in boats, and around me on bikes and running. There were quiet patches and busy patches but with all of it, although I wasn’t directly engaging with anyone or anything other than the steady plod of my feet on the footpath, I felt connected to life. This was also useful to remind myself how to listen to my body when running. I could hear my breathing, ragged at times, easing at others and my feet – was I slapping or making a solid mid-foot strike? The result…I found myself running eight miles, further than I’d planned but everything felt so in balance I didn’t want it to end.
By sheer coincidence the next day at the Otter River and Rail 10K I forgot my Garmin. This is the watch I wear every time I run to record how far I have gone (and how fast). This is essential at the moment when every mile counts towards my running challenge target, but at other times when it is a training run I always have my watch. I love data and getting instant feedback on my progress. As it was a race I didn’t have my music either, I was basically naked (not literally! Although I almost wish I had been, it was sooooo hot!). This enhanced my re-learnt lesson from the day before about connecting with oneself, life around me, and listening to my body. I just ran. The time wasn’t important, I ran hard when my body said “go” and eased off when my body said “hang on a minute buddy”. It was wonderful. (I’m still awaiting the official times to be posted so I know how it compares to when I run with my watch…I can’t ever quite give up the data).
I think I am particularly self aware of my physiology because of the delicate balance managing my cancer puts me in. Getting drug levels right, enough rest, enough activity, cyclical periods of growth, occasional bleeding from inflammation and the odd fit thrown in for good measure, all means I need to be able to recognise what my body is telling me before it gets to crisis point. And I do manage that. Doing it when running was something I used to do a lot more, and think I’ll do more of again. If the last couple of days are anything to go by performance is improved by responding to and working with one’s body rather than against it.
This brings me on, somewhat clumsily, to my comments on the Leeds 10K. This is the flagship Run For All race, the events arm of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal. It is special to the Appeal as it was the event Jane herself launched nine years ago and it is from those beginnings that they have grown and the legacy continues. I’ve done a number of Run For All events over the years including the Leeds Half Marathon, Hull 10K and the Yorkshire Marathon, but none are as special as the Leeds 10K. The course, atmosphere and spectators are wonderful but it is more than that, something almost intangible. You feel your heart soar and be part of an inspiring legacy. You stand among the thousands of people, knowing no one but knowing everyone. It is breathtaking and certainly lump in the throat inducing. It is also today. Or was, this morning. And I wasn’t there. This is gutting to me but unavoidable in the context of my life right at this moment. It was the right decision to not go, but a sad decision. It has been both lovely and hard watching Twitter explode today first with good wishes and shout outs and then with post race selfies and various digital forms of that adrenaline rush. My own personal highlight was in 2010 meeting a huge hero of mine, Paula Radcliffe.
Me and Paula Radcliffe, Leeds 10K 2010...she's the one eating the bacon buttie... ... I'd already inhaled mine!
Which leads me on to this. When I die I suggest one thing (and I won’t know if you do/don't do it of course). Don't set up anything in my name. Enter the next Leeds 10K, run/walk/crawl it, embrace its wonder, because it is there on the roads of Leeds amongst the Jane Tomlinson’s Appeal Run For All gloriousness that you will truly understand what it has all been about for me all these years. And you’ll see too that #RunningIsFunning.