Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Last Post

Hey-up. How’s tha doin’? Alreight?

Big one, is this. For me, anyroad. It’s the last post.

I started this blog as a run/walking, greatly overweight lump of inertia, whose sporting activity days had slowly escaped away. I went for my first walk/run on April 19, 2012: 440 days (and 1966 miles) ago. And you know what? I couldn’t stand running.

That’s right – couldn’t. To me, running was just an inane and unrewarding combination, the mere thought of which engendered boredom and suffering. This wasn’t a solely theoretical mindset, rather one borne out of earlier days when it was a regular fixture of football training and a rare activity with my Dad. Sure, keep at it long enough and maybe one day you’ll run a half marathon, maybe even a full one – but you’re hardly going to win, are you? I’m no fantabulous tennis player, yet by combining some graft and a burning dislike for some of my opponents I managed to win the prestigious Portishead Lawn Tennis Club’s Men’s Single Championships back in 2008. I still had a shirt I had printed that reads: “If it’s not about winning, why do we keep the score?” – because, in tennis, they have scores to keep! Just like in football, in cricket… but not in running. That’s just… one foot in front on the other. N’est-ce pas?

So – ’twas with this informed attitude and open mind that I tried out this running malarkey whatsits thingamijig. For all its shortcomings, running, with its flexibility in terms of time (of day, of exercise length) seemed worth a shot to shed a little weight. So I gave it one. And I figured I’d write down my moans and rambles while I was at it. Heck, I had no time for running, but I’ve always enjoyed writing. I had to make it worthwhile somehow.

There followed fifteen months of waffling about exactly how I’d been putting one foot in front of the other. I started off with no clear objective other than to avoid buying new jeans: an objective which I failed miserably to achieve, as I’ve had to buy jeans two or three sizes smaller than the ones I was just about squeezing into fifteen months ago. Then, back in September, I ran my first 10k, in my beloved Endcliffe Park in my hometown of Sheffield. A week later I ran my first Half Marathon, in my adoptive surroundings of Bristol. And, last April, I ran my first marathon, Up North but on’t wrong side o’t’Pennines, in Manchester (well, Cheshire). I talked you through the training and then recounted those races, a handful of other races and all the roadrunning in between. Throughout, I prefaced every effort by reminding you that I can’t stand running.

Much to my surprise (and occasional horror spasm), I quite enjoy it now. It’s a state of mind which I’ve come to accept, if somewhat reluctantly. Granted, it is the height of summer (in British terms), its long days ensuring that both early morning jaunts and late-night marathons can be run with the sun’s blessing. Just how enjoyable this lark will be when I once again find myself dodging potholes in the morning dark (which could easily mean 7am) remains to be seen. But, right now, I’m enjoying it. There. I’ve said it. And not for the first time.

With that in mind, it’s time to move on. “I Can’t Stand Running” has run its course. I have told my story, one whose outset did nothing to suggest it would have taken the shape it did. Time to stop writing about how I can’t stand running: time, maybe, to collate (i.e. copy/paste) my wafflings from the last 440 days into an old-style diary (OK, .pdf file) for future contemplation, once a few more dozen soles have been worn out. But I can only describe my Nore Road ascents so many times… even today’s run, with its 1,223 feet of ascent over 14 miles (87.35 ft/mi – my Jan-Jun 2013 average being 41.50), is of dubious interest, much as I was happy to have finally drawn up a fresh, challenging route… and talking you through my preparations for Chester would be a mundane and boring exercise for us both, the novelty and mystery of Manchester unrepeatable… sorry, the time has come to call Last Orders on this blog. It’s been one helluva ride and I am humbled and grateful to anyone who took the time to read even just one solitary post of mine. I’ll finish this one and then leave.


…every end has a beginning, right?

That’s right. I’m bringing I Can’t Stand Running to a close, but starting a new chapter. Time alone will tell how different it will be from this one. But here’s where I’m heading:

There you go you can put that bugle away now. And don’t go there just yet – I’ve not posted owt. Giz a chance! This one’s going to take more thought…

The plan is to keep writing about running a bit whilst spending more time on the things I think about whilst out running. About my unsolved philosophical questions, my current (and unprecedented) question marks over theology, my challenges as a parent in modern Britain, my goals and how they seek to elude me… and about a bunch of less grandiose rubbish, no doubt.

See, here’s the thing. We get changed, stick on our surgical tape, lace up and head out onto our roads and trails… and we run. And we check our watches, monitor distance and pace, constantly trying to figure out in our mind how we’re faring and what might be a reasonable result for the day, how that would fit within the bigger picture of our training and whether we need to speed things up to be home in time. All critical contemplations, especially if the meal awaiting us isn’t microwaveable. But even the most over-analytical mind can fit in time to ponder other stuff, from the working day ahead to questions that otherwise life will get in the way of. It’s one of the reasons we run. It’s certainly one of the reasons I run, anyway, even more so a reason I run without music even though I own around 1,500 albums that could keep me company. I probably would like to run with others more often than I do (which is hardly ever), but certainly not all the time. I just want to be alone with my thoughts and the earth’s sights, sounds and smells, fresh air blowing into my face. And if that makes me a mardy bum, so be it. I generally have the face on, anyway.

This may not be the first post on here you read – regardless, it’ll definitely be the last… But if you have wasted time reading previous mumblings of mine, thank you. I hope you found it worth your while. I hope I did my story justice… should I have focused more on the brain surgery I underwent five months before first lacing up? Nah. I’ve lived with epilepsy all my life and, on the whole, we’ve got on OK. We all have our crosses to bear and mine’s lighter than most: on me, anyway. It can be more of a pain for those around me. Reluctant as I was to acknowledge my epilepsy on my race numbers at the outset, it’s something I am now proud to do. For every sufferer whose day-to-day activities are not compromised, there are plenty who couldn’t take to the roads the way I’m doing. I’m aware of this in races more than in training and I’d like to think I’m going from start to finish for them, too.

On that note, for the last time on this blog a huge thanks to my brothers for their love and inspiration. They are always the last people I think about at the start of a race, when I look up to the sky and give them a smile, and they are always the first people I thank at the end, when I look up and blow them a grateful kiss. Walls are easier to overcome when you’ve got two angels lifting you over them and, in that regard, I’m blessed. Every foot beat on the asphalt, every heart beat on every run… I’ve carried you with me. Other than when you’ve been the ones doing the carrying, that is.

So I’m off folk, from the comfort of my well-trodden running roads to new, virgin trails. Not as an overweight lump, rather as a 3h31’ marathon runner in the physical form of his life. As for the inertia… well, it’s pretty much still there. In the words with which Isaac Netwon defined it:

The vis insita, or innate force of matter, is a power of resisting by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavours to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.

I’ve done away with the resting – but I’m still moving forward, if not a) uniformly or b) in a straight line. I’ve been running every day for 265 days now: that’s inertia, of sorts. I wouldn’t recommend you try to alter that state, anyway. Youd be surprised to discover how keen I am to preserve it. Or maybe you wouldn’t. Best leave it.

So there you have it: I’ll still keep you updated about my efforts and my ambitions, but I’ll try and mix things up a little. I’ll keep downloading the stats from my Garmin but will occasionally seek to download some thoughts from the brain, too. Because even after you’ve clocked a long run, even if you’re clocking 50 miles a week or 200 miles a month, it’s not just about the running. It never is.

Anyroad, I’m off – you coming?

p.s.: oh, and you know what? I love running. I finally gave in during the Sheffield Half Marathon. I thought I would: if you can’t feel the love in Sheffield, there’s no hope for you. Just don’t tell anyone… least of all Mike.

Monday, 1 July 2013

June 2013: A Month In Review

(Look, you really don’t have to read this. Worse still, what with June being end of quarter and end of half year –can you tell I work in software, on the Sales and Marketing side?–, there’s a little more to waffle about this time)

Right then – June numbers:

Count:                    38 Activities
Distance:               209.68 mi (6.99mi/day)
Time:                      31h02’29”
Elevation Gain:     10,863 ft (51.8ft/mi)
Avg Speed:            6.8 mph

2013 Cumulative (Jan-Jun > 1st Half):

Count:                    203 Activities

Distance:               1,350.51 mi (7.46mi/day)

Time:                      190h01’10”

Elevation Gain:     56,043 ft (41.50ft/mi)

Avg Speed:            7.1 mph

So what?!?

Well, the hillage is satisfying, boosted by my two HM-length runs in the Ligurian countryside early on in the month. I have been trying to bring more hillage into the equation back home but not sure it’s cutting much mustard. These surroundings now feel so much flatter than I’d ever thought… my living on top of a hill kind of screwed my perception, by running standards it’s actually not that bad/good! I can but try and see what happens in July.

The disappointing stat is clearly speed. Granted, it’s generally inversely proportionate to elevation, so in simplistic terms it’s not a statistical anomaly. But the frustration stems from niggles that have been holding me back from running at the pace to which I have grown accustomed. I was particularly frustrated on Friday 28, when I came home from a 10-miler. Whatever one’s level, one should always be pleased about running ten miles. However, it took me 1h34’41”, and I’m becoming such a spoilt little brat that I find that unacceptable. No matter that the side of my right foot hurts because of wearing an old pair of ‘proper’  shoes (i.e. smartish – very ish) for eleven hours on Tuesday, that my right leg is not 100% or, indeed, that I’d run 63 miles over the six days prior, including my 26.2mi Longest Day Run and 13.5mi on Tuesday 25. If I were an outsider, looking in with logic and balance, I’d have harsh words with such a moaning twerrap. But it’s always harder to see the bleedin’ obvious when staring in the mirror.

Looking at the first half of the year, however, the picture isn’t too gloomy. I began in January treating #2013in2013 as an achievable target, but did not expect to be this far ahead of the game. Halfway through the year and I’m at two-thirds of the way towards hitting target – I don’t think it’s pretentious to suggest that I’d now be disappointed if I were to miss that goal. Maybe even hit it during the Chester Marathon? Hmmm… let’s just wait and see. Or run and see, anyway.
Mind you, it’s only when I come to do this monthly waffling that I track miles in year-to-date: what actually drives me, as a goal, is hitting 200mi/month. That in turn drives my 50mi/wk target, which I generally hit unless pre- or post-races considerations enter the equation. Six months in, and I’ve hit 200mi/month every time. Although I did panic a little last night, when only once I’d set off did I realise I’d been checking my minimum distance required on the basis of hitting 50 for the week… in my mind that’s because I’d looked into this earlier in the week and established I’d hit 200 for June before I’d hit 50 for the week… which turned out to be correct, but I did have to rush up to the laptop as soon as I got back from a 4-miler to check whether I had to go back out!

What will July bring? Hopefully 200mi, for starters: every other month so far has, so it would be rude if it didn’t. And, hopefully, a little more speed without hillage reverting back to pre-Italy levels. Can I blame the heat if I fail to pick up the pace? Hmmm… now there’s a thought!
Oh hang on… says here “He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else”… darn!

Chester Marathon is now twelve weeks away, with the Bristol and Weston-super-Mare (Grand Pier
) halves nine and eleven weeks off respectively and the Portishead half a fortnight after Chester. All training will be geared towards Chester, mind – and a sub-3h30’ finish. So maybe two long runs in July, say on Thursday 11 and 25 or weekends thereafter? Sounds like a plan. Frightfully so…

Last but not least, hopefully July won’t bring any niggles or, indeed, injuries. I have finally satisfied myself that my niggle was that: occasional yet successful use of a newly-purchased ice pack, combined with not-too-shabby mileage, has proven that. Phew! Although that
s not to say I have fully figured out how to make it disappear for good Ill get back to you on that one.

Chester, Chester
what is this Chester I speak of?
I’ve referenced a few time the Chester Marathon over recent weeks. What I’ve never done is announced that I’ll be running it. So there you go, folk:

I’ll be running the 2013 Chester Marathon!

And if that doesn’t bring down the Internet under a flurry of social media activity..!