How Lonely is the Long Distance Runner?

Wow, that’s a question. I have yet to read the book or see the film that goes by the same title. Well goes by the title of ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ and while this is not going to be a rip off or even an interpretation of what Alan Sillitoe wrote it is going to be an examination into the world and mind-set of runners.

Everyone knows were a funny lot. People come in from the cold wrapped up to the nines with gloves, coats, hats they turn the heating on full blast and comment how icy and freezing it is and it has started snowing. Or they comment that the rain is hammering down so much it is bouncing. With this weather report you can guarantee that if there is a runner in close proximity then they will grab their trainers and be off for a run. Even the very name we take pride in. ‘Were runners’ I picked a parcel up the other day before going for a run and because of this I had my Liverpool Half T-Shirt on. The Post Office official commented and asked if I was going for a ‘jog’ before I could reply she had apologised and corrected herself with the word ‘Run’ ‘You don’t jog do you? You run, you’re a runner I’m a runner’ While the words ‘jog’ and ‘run’ don’t bother me I know in the fraternity of our sport anyone who takes it seriously is a runner.

Yes we are crazy, we know that. We run because we enjoy the freedom, buzz, energy and maybe the solitude and boy is there a lot of that. I am at the moment after hitting ‘Publish’ going to lace up the shoes and be on my way for a good 90 minutes running where the only company will be that of my own and for people who know me that is not always enjoyable.

But at the same time there is a community and camaraderie between runners. As we run and see other runners we wave, nod, even go as far to say ‘Hi’ if we can mange wasting our precious breath on speaking. As we go into running shops we talk about times, races, routes. At the start and end of races we chat and laugh. On route we sometimes talk and laugh, if people stubble we ask if they are okay, we offer water and energy gels around but while all of this is happening we are also in our zone. Running our own race on our path to a hopeful PB or course record.

So how lonely is running. Is the Long distance runner alone on the field, starving off the exhaustion with only his or her thoughts for company. When I ran my first Marathon I have never felt so alone yet there were hundreds of people around me running as one. The crowds were calling my name and cheering us all on but yet I was running my own race my own route.

The mind set of running is strange. We are a big family, large support and only a runner will be able to understand or comprehend an other. Our community is large and extensive we welcome new members to the fold but yet when we run we run on our own with our own thoughts and goals and I’m not going to lie Manchester Marathon saw me almost throw in the towel as my body began to shut down. Every movement required a strong conscious effort to move. As my legs filled with concrete and my head dropped I thought I was going to die out on the field and then the realisation that I wasn’t alone helped to bring me back to the land of living.

But in training you don’t have the luxury of crowd support or fellow runners and part of the training is becoming strong, telling your mind you are strong enough to keep running. Running is a solo sport, hobby, ambition, lifestyle. You will only ever understand a runer if you become one and even then you will never understand how every individual feels as he crosses the line after 26.2 miles or comes in from a 20 mile run on a Sunday morning.

That is where the true loneliness happens. Not being able to share your relief and joy of long distance running, not being able to explain your thoughts and feelings as you picked up pace, tackled the hill, popped a gel cause you thought it was the right time. Everything about running is personal to you and to you alone which in itself is a nice thought.


Thought it was Suppose to Get Easier

This running lark and lifting weights and doing 40 minutes on the old spinner before jumping across to the static rower is hard work. Some one once said and in fact everyone says if you keep at it you will find it easier except I don’t.

Well I do. 3 years ago, running for more than two minutes was something off a dream not that I would choose to dream about running. Lasting 40 minutes on the spinner or being able to row 2000 meters in eight minutes seemed to be out of my reach. Roll on the old clock and I’m doing Marathons. I’m doing 60 minutes of hill and speed work in the gym while I have other men falling over themselves trying to complete the pre programmed 5K in less than 30 minutes. As they wheeze for the breath of life in contrast my composure is that of some one walking in the park.

So this is evidence that it does get easier. Well yes, but also no. It’s a big no. I know that I have lost several pounds while I have been running and that affects the calories you burn which means it becomes harder to carry on losing the weight. When I ran 5K as I was starting out on the running journey my body was burning 500 calories, now a 5K may see as little as 300 being burnt. As for my heart rate that is a whole different kettle of  fish. Looking back at my Garmin I can see my first 10K had my heart rate at around 175 BPM that I ran in 55 minutes. Roll on the years and a brisk 45 minute 10K will see my heart max out at around 160 BPM.

This may be good. I have trained my heart to a level where it can do it’s job while being economic, but at the same time it means if I really want to do high intensity I have to work harder than I ever have before. And so we come to the title. As I am training for yet another run I have decided to mix in some speed work and interval training and while I am finding it easy, or should I say easier than I thought, I am really having to push myself to the limit to get my HR up high.

So while exercise is good for you, it seems the more you do the more you have to continue doing and work harder to maintain the benefits of when you first started.

Aren’t We Great!

As I watch ‘Africa’ a new documentary about the wildlife presented by a true treasure that is David Attenburgh and I see the monkeys do their thing while the trees struggle to find that bit of light so they can grow to be part of the canopy that sprawls along the Congo I slowly drift of to sleep.

The morning arrives with my body deciding that a little more kip was not needed and the order of the day was to make sure my body was up for 7am. As I reluctantly woke, fed and watered myself I looked out to see the weather condition. Still cold, but no more snow. I checked my phone to see what temperature that the ‘Weather App’ was informing all other android users over Manchester and with this the knowledge that it was freezing I decided to go for a run.

Now I like the cold and I like running and this week has been hard to get out of the door due to work so this run was very needed. As I was starting my run I could hear the sirens of an ambulance in the distance. Pausing to wait for it to pass so I could cross the road without being hit my mind sprung to life.

This machine was in a rush. They always are. They speed to the scene of an accident and the stakes are high they would save some ones life, or at the very least get them to a hospital. We are really quite advanced. Phones, cars, telly, clothes. Everything. We are evolved. We have separated ourselves from the animal kingdom we no longer need to groom one another or huddle together for warmth as we invented and control electricity which means we can power our heaters and hair dryers.

As I started to walk the path of how we got here, with the likes of Dr Lister and his antiseptic surgery, Louis Pasteur and before them… the men and women who built Britain and the world powered by the industrial revolution.

Then I think back to how I’m going to leave it all behind. Well not all of it. the advances in medicine and warmth and shelter will still be in my life. I’m only going to New Zealand, not turning into a Hermit. Yes after a year of talking and thinking yesterday saw me buy my plane tickets and now I am a little scared. I will be trekking around NZ with none of the advances of life. Mobile, internet, computer, enough change of clothes for a week. Nope all my possessions will be in a bag. A big bag, but still a bag. And all my property in the UK will be sold. Well not all… But all the DVD’s Cd’s etc that I have spent a small fortune on will be sold…

So as my mind was bubbling about how far we have come, I started to turn my attention to  how far I will be going.

An Update….

I get bored with thinking of titles for my blogs so this one I have left blank. Well, not completely blank as you can see as I have named it and for once it is a name that could be printed on the side of a tin or on a box. It does exactly what it says on tin you could say. It’s an update!

So as the bell struck midnight I was busy snoozing as the rest of the UK was seeing in the New Year. While I do not really make resolutions I promised myself that this year would be the year that I would break my running PB’s and really try hard to stop drinking the red stuff and finally get myself off to New Zealand even if it’s just for a holiday.

So how am I doing? Well I have not had a drink since the 1st and feel fine. I have also started to eat more healthy and while I may not be eating 5 meals or even three a day I am snacking more wisely as the share holders of Cadbury will notice when they see the sales of their confectionary come the end of January. I have been hitting the gym on an almost daily basis and mixed my running up with the bike, weights and cross trainer. I have also been using the gym to do my speed and hill work on the old treadmill. All of this has seen me loose the bloatedness of the Christmas belly and has seen the weight fall back to what it was before the annual gorging we call Christmas. To tell you the truth the weight has actually fallen below 13 stone for the first time since high school and while I can now fit into a 34″ waist there is still a lot to go.

No doubt as I keep up the weights, my weight will bounce back up, but for now I am feeling good. That feeling however was not to last. Today saw me go on my long run for the old Manchester Marathon training and while in my head I said I’d settle for 10 miles I really wanted to bank 13 and possibly 14 if my legs were feeling up to it.

So I set off with a bottle of water and no gels. After a very light breakfast and not too much carbo loading through the week, I found that mile seven had a little wall for me. I carried on and while the tenth mile was comfortable the final three saw me digging deep. I can’t believe that I did this run. I knew by mile five that I did not have it in me and should have stopped, it’s not like I am new to marathon training but today seemed to display that I had not learnt from past training mistakes and maybe I should do more homework before embarking on this athletic milestone. I’m hoping that this set back will be quite the opposite and will urge me to take on the training with even more planning and authority, but I am following a schedule that see’s me running 16 miles by the end of the month and if I really want to break that 3:30 mark I need to get the miles in my legs quick.

In other news I actually planned to spend over £1000 on plane tickets, until a job prospect came up… I have spent the last three days thinking about this job and the trip to NZ and think that come monday I will be making the call to the travel centre to get myself two tickets to New Zealand.

Oh well onwards and upwards. I have work in two hours that will see me working through to Sunday morning making sure that Sunday becomes a day of rest… But I might sneak a little trip to the gym in or a cheeky 5K in the evening.

See you all soon.

Never Easy

Well just as I was going to put my hand into my wallet and allow all the moths to escape my eye gets drawn to a job advertisement that is right up my street.

I was already to take the plunge and buy the air fare to New Zealand but then I see the job. Now I’m in two minds. I need to get to NZ before the end of July as that is when my Visa will run out but this job is so ideal for me I don’t want to miss out. I have found cheap flights but now am wondering if I should book them or wait to hear back from the job. I know that I will regret not going to NZ (my best mate informs me of that) but what happens if I turn down the job of a lifetime that could see me escape the world of theatre and start my dream career of working in the out doors and eventually Snowdon.

Why is it that my life is never easy. This always happens. I spend an age planning or thinking about a job or holiday and the day I make my mind up then like a bus another job or plan comes along.

Darn it. Thats what I say.

Not How Far You Have to Go, But How Far You’ve Come

It’s true people say it all the time, as you climb the wall at mile 19 or 20 don’t look at it that you have another 6 miles and 385 yards to go but that you have come 20 miles and that within itself should be rewarded with a medal.

As I prepare to go to the gym and do some speed work on the old treadmill followed by some weights my thoughts turned back to this time a couple of years ago. I had already started running in the November 2010 and was running 5K very comfortably but to spur me on and keep me motivated I had managed to persuade several friends to join me in the Manchester 10K and it was this time in 2010 that I suddenly thought that in five months I needed to run 6.2 miles. 6.2 entire miles. The very notion terrified me and as the time fastly drew nearer the more doubts were conjured up on weather I would be able to complete this Herculean task.

As we know from past blog entries I did mange it and went on to become a running addict. The thought of thinking about or the fear of trying to complete a 10K quickly transferred to the thought that in 4 months I will be setting off on yet another Marathon and will I be able to complete it. I have done two already so the answer is a possible yes but with my competitive mind the true question is can I beat last years time…

With this in my mind the title of the piece sprung to mind. Does it really matter if I get my sub 3:30 or break four hours. Should I just not look at how far I have come. Two years ago if you had said to me or any of my friends I would be running Marathons let alone a 10K the whole lot of us would have fallen about laughing. But it’s true, I have kept on running and kept on getting new PB’s. So as I set of to the gym thinking about the 26.2 miles I am training for maybe I should turn my attention to what I have run already. After all people say running from zero to 3.1 miles is harder than 3.1 to 15 miles.

Here’s to where I have been that will carry me on to whatever the future has install.

Spinning into 2013

Well, I never made it out for New Years run as the bottles of red stuff put a dampener on that plan but I did eat a lot of food and thought I needed to do some exercise so went to the gym which I have not been too for some time. Did a bit of treadmill hill sprints and static bike and thought I would give the Spinning Bike a go.

I would recommend this to anyone it is such a good work out and really empties the legs of any fuel. the half a mile run home was a very slow painful one.