Inspiration overload

I’ve been into this running thing for a while now. In fact, in a couple of months it will be the five year anniversary of my very first race. So naturally, I’m friends with, I run with and I connect with a lot of super amazing bad ass runners. People who run crazy distances week in, week out. People who run ultras, people who do triathlons, people who run ridiculously fast. All of them are doing wonderful stuff. And then there’s me.

Obviously I am in awe of all these people. They show grit and determination and a whole lot of something I don’t have. I just don’t have the bother. I really like running, but in five years I haven’t got a whole heap better. I’ve taken 11 minutes off my 10k and 14 minutes off my half marathon time, which to me is still the same ballpark. Not a massive step forward. And most of the time, that’s fine by me. But recently, for the first time, I have felt the balance of being inspired and enthused by those around me tip in favour of feeling overwhelmed, and frankly, completely inadequate.

Mostly because I’ve stayed still, just circling around myself for so long.

I also found myself questioning my decision not to run another marathon (at least not for a while). Then thinking screw marathons, why aren’t I running ultras? Everyone else seems to love running for hours on end through the countryside, why don’t I? Maybe I should get swimming lessons, everyone on my Twitter is in a wetsuit these days, after all. Perhaps I should’ve bought a sportier bike, and then I could go on longer rides at the weekends.

But then I remember. I don’t want to do any of those things. Running halves and having a modest time goal. Going to yoga and yet still not being able to touch my toes. Pootling around London on my sexy red bike. These are things I want to do.

Sure, these things aren’t the most inspiring; relative to some accomplishments they are pretty mundane. But I’ll keep doing them and writing about them. I’ll keep posting about them on Instagram. If just one person like five-years-ago-me goes for a run because of it, then that’s inspiration enough.

A running debate: City vs Country

It only dawned on me as the train pulled into Dorking for the start of the Bacchus half marathon last September what I had signed up for. “Oh my god, we are actually in the countryside”, I said. “Yes, it’s in Surrey… on a vineyard… 48 minutes out of London, what did you expect?” was the response. Oh.

As much as I loved running it with so many friends, in fancy dress, in the summer, with loads of amazing food and wine, it still wasn’t my favourite race. I just can’t seem to fall in love with running through woods.

I love walking in the countryside – when there’s stunning views and the feeling of clean, fresh air filling your lungs it is fantastic. But running? Urgh. You don’t have time to appreciate the views because you’re too busy looking at the floor trying not to trip over tree roots. It’s really bloody hilly in the countryside (unless I’m running in my native Norfolk in which case it is just too damn flat). There’s no interesting buildings, no tourists to dodge, no street signs to help you navigate.

Despite the fact that I had come to the conclusion that country running is not for me, I asked two lovers of hitting the trails to try and convince me otherwise. Admittedly their photos are speaking just as loudly as their words…

Justin says…

I was once like you, eschewing dirt for Tarmac, worrying about even the dust of the Tamsin Trail in Richmond Park ruining my sparkling white trainers. But after training for my first marathon I wanted a break from the roads and tried a trail half marathon.

As it was actually longer than a half marathon, and I wasn’t quite recovered from the marathon, I took it easy and stopped regularly to take photos. It helped that it was a beautiful day in Devon but even so, you might be able to see the appeal.

Justin’s photo

Since then, I’ve sought trails as much as possible. Not only are they easy on the eye but they’re also good for your running. Invariably there are hills which provide a great workout and the uneven surfaces force you to use muscles that normally wouldn’t get used. My weak ankles are now a thing of the past.

Justin’s photo

I can’t recommend it highly enough. And depending on where you are, you might even see a bear.

Justin’s photo (…an actual bear!)

You can follow Justin on Twitter @JustinBateman and visit his website

Rebecca says…

If you told me I had to choose between city road running or not running again for the rest of my life, it would be a relatively easy decision to hang up my beloved-but-muddy trainers and find another sport. Now maybe that means I just don’t love running enough, but a huge part of the joy of it for me is that it takes me out into the countryside and green spaces. It helps that I live on the edge of Winchester, with access to some amazing trails and forests.

Rebecca’s photo

I didn’t start running that regularly until I was in my early thirties and had had a baby – I tended to favour trails just to minimise the impact on my knees and hips, but found as I got stronger that I just prefer to run in the green. The benefits of being in the countryside are well documented and in Japan, they even have a word for a therapeutic visit to a forest – Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). As well as enjoying the beautiful views, I find that running on trails and tracks means I’m thinking about where my feet are going which distracts me from concentrating on pain or tiredness.

Rebecca’s photo

The peace and solitude is pretty special too (and especially important to me as a busy working mum), some days I might only have the birds or an occasional dog walker for company and on one memorable run, a family of deer ran alongside my husband and I. As ultrarunner Jenn Shelton said “That’s what I love, just being a barbarian, running through the woods.”

Rebecca’s photo

Don’t get me wrong, I love the buzz of a big city race, but since the majority of my running time isn’t spent racing, I’d rather be training on a beautiful forest trail, next to a river on a springy path made of pine needles, rather than slogging it out on tarmac next to duel carriageway being splashed by inconsiderate drivers!

You call follow Rebecca on Twitter @rebeccajohns

So, join in and tell us – what do you prefer, dodging bollards or dodging branches?

London marathon training update: 14 weeks to go

In the style of my first post of this kind from my last cycle of marathon training, hello and welcome to the first of my Monday morning training updates – here to clog up your screens for the next three months as I hurtle towards the start line of THE BLOODY LONDON MARATHON.

I am now fully into bona fide training and I’ve run seven times and covered 43 miles in only thirteen days. After months of hating, dreading, worrying, procrastinating and just not doing anything, I’ve had two great weeks of running and I know I’ve made the right decision as to which marathon to run this spring.

Highlights of my running fortnight have been…

A quick solo run out along the river to Canary Wharf last Saturday morning. It was flippin’ windy so it was really slow, but it was the first time in ages I’d voluntarily got myself out of bed to go running because I actually wanted to.

Being reunited with my marathon training buddy, Leah, and meeting Cara for the first time as we took on a 10k race around Battersea Park (along with a sneaky few extra miles at the beginning). We chatted the whole way round, paced ourselves beautifully and earned a stonking little medal.

Going to Mile End parkrun for the first time with my housemate Sam (also his first ever parkrun, woop!) Just two miles along the canal got us to the park. Eight hills later I’d achieved my best parkrun time in ages and found my new home run.

Doing a route that I’ve been wanting to do for almost a year – running out east along the river to the Thames Barrier. I’ve never been further along than Greenwich before, but I navigated through puddles, mud and industrial areas (alright, it was 98% concrete, I’m trying to sound heroic) to make it there, take a few quick snaps… and then turn around and head straight back again. I’m always happy when I’m by the river.

I run London, I’m running London

In my last post I hinted at the small epiphany (yes, I’m being melodramatic, running does that to me) I’d had whilst out on my solo LSR last weekend. And now, I’ve sorted the logistics required to be able to say THIS YEAR I WILL BE RUNNING THE LONDON MARATHON.

This wasn’t this year’s race plan. 2015’s spring marathon was supposed to be Barcelona, but after my usual routine of writing out a training plan to the letter, ignoring it for a couple of months and then freaking out, I’ve decided that trying to run 26.2 in what is now nine week’s time is not for me. Yes, running a marathon is all in your head (more on that another time), but my head is not in the game for this one.

As soon as I thought of the idea of switching races around I knew it was the right thing to do. I signed up for Barcelona months ago and always said if I got into London I would defer it. But when I thought about the prospect of using my prized ballot place this year, I got so excited.

My two planned half marathons (Brighton and Berlin) fit in perfectly with training, I’m exactly where I need to be distance-wise to train for a marathon in almost four months and most of all it’s on flippin’ home turf. The route passes by the end of my road… TWICE.

I’m not sure if I mentioned, but I. Am. So. Excited.

Running marathon happy

This week has been the first ‘proper’ week of training for marathon number two. Or really, it’s been the first week of trying to get the love for running back.

I’ve really felt the pressure recently and have dreaded running. This is absolutely not the point.

Last marathon training cycle, I was running away from something. I was using the runs and the structure to cope with heartbreak. I really enjoyed the entire four month process, but I also needed it.

This time around, I am happy at the start of it all, rather than hoping to discover happiness along the way.

As an amazing friend keeps reminding me, we run because we love it, because we enjoy it. If it’s not bringing us joy, then something has to change.

I’ve been running a while now and I know what works and what doesn’t work for me.

I don’t like running before work, with a rucksack, or on trails, and I often struggle running with people much faster than I am.

I love running in the evenings, along the Thames, at the track and I know which of my running buddies suit my pace best.

I’m not going to put pressure on myself to train in a way I can’t achieve and I’m going to do lots of the other things I like that aren’t running.

I want to try for a half marathon PB at Brighton the month before the marathon, but other than that, I don’t have a time goal for the race itself. Running 26.2 is enough of an achievement.

If I get to 15th March having had a good time for the past four months, having not got too stressed out and having successfully run my second marathon, I will be proud with what I have accomplished.