The post that says nothing

What do we do when we are not running? By we I mean anyone who runs. This sport is not reserved only for the elite and the quick. Nor does it belong exclusively to those that run absolutely silly and ridiculous miles in one chunk. It makes no difference if you are capable of setting a new land speed record on foot, or if you achieve a top speed, with a balls out lung bustin’ effort, of 20 mins per mile. Neither is it of any consequence if the farthest you have ever ran, or ever want to run is 5K, or if you run 300 mile Artic Ultras for fun. If you are a highly respected and acclaimed club runner or if you have only plodded around the streets where you live alone – matters not. If you have been running for 30 years or only started 3 weeks ago. If you run then you are a runner. That is what I mean by we.

So what do we do when we can’t run? Well I can tell what I have done today as a starter. I watched Football Focus on the telly, I mooched around Facebook for a bit, I watched a movie on line,…………..and I read lots and lots of blogs…………..written by runners. I don’t know if other sports spawn such a great need from it’s participants to scribe – I don’t read those blogs. However, we do appear to write a heck of a lot about our chosen sport. I mean a real lot! Now I may be doing an injustice to my fellows runners. For all I know the undisputed heavy weight Kings and Queens of blogging may well belong to those that play indoor bowls, or outdoor polo, or any other sport as a matter of fact. I just know that we runners feel a need to write about it extensively

We write about why we run or started running. We write about swapping a life of addiction to drugs/alcohol/smoking/food/etc for a healhier lifestyle. We tell about beginning running to get fitter, lose weight, raise money for charity, as a bet on a drunken Sat night out, and so on, and so on. We write about pace per min, timings, negative splits, winning, and losing. We relay stories of triumph and stories of woe from our latest events. We write about hill reps, about fartleks, about tempo runs, about LSR’s, about back to back runs. We publish gear reviews on everything from sun hats to water bottles. We impart what are the best shoes, the best compression top, the best race vest, for the road, for the trail, for the mountain. We tell the world about gels, electrolyte tabs, peanut butter sarnies.  We inform all what we eat when we are running and what we eat when we are not running. The list goes on and on about what we write about.

The natural question that should therefore be evoked is “why”. Alas, I am not aware of the answer to that. In fact I haven’t given any thought what so ever as to the reasons why we runners are compelled to put pen to paper (or bash the laptop keyboard) so much.

The purpose of this post then? – I’m injured, therefore not running, which equates to being bored. Ergo – I wrote about running Cool

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DNF

1. May, 2015

DNF is not a character fault, a shortcoming, or flaw. It’s three letters. For the unaware those 3 inconspicuous letters mean “Did Not Finish”. The letters that appear on-line in the race results after the name of a runner who did not get to the finish line. Some runners do get to the finish line, but if they are outside of the event cut off time they too have the dreaded DNF next to their name. For many many a runner the uttering of those same letters, no matter how whisper like said, make their blood run cold, instigates uncontrollable shivering, and ultimately lead to a total breakdown of all functioning abilty. Ok, so I exaggerate somewhat, but to some the thought alone of failing to finish an event is scary and totally unacceptable.

Some runners see a DNF as a weakness, a cop out,  or a failure in ability even. I had a very interesting and longwinded debate with a fellow runner recently on this exact subject. He was adamant the the only reason for anyone ever DNFing was, and always will be, due to a lack of training. He insisted that failing to train physically, mentally, and habitually are the only reasons that people drop out. To him failing to finish is unacceptable, even in the most extreme of circumstances.

Now there is a very large and huge amount of truth in what he says, and I don’t wish to re hash the whole debate in it’s entirety here (it was an ultra in itself!!) but I disagree with the simplicity of his thinking. Failing to train properly, be that physically, mentally, or habitually, are not the only reason that someone may not finish. I do believe it may well be the most common reason………….. but not the only reason. We all run for our own purposes. We all have our own commitments, apart from running, to maintain. We have our own priorities in relation to running and what we want to achieve from it. Sometimes a DNF is the right reason. It may not be right for another runner, but for the individual making that decision, it may well just be the right choice to make.

I don’t think anyone enters an event with the mindset of wishing for a DNF. However one day it may be unavoidable. I doesn’t matter if you are an elit athelete, a damn fine club runner, or a happy plodder –  sometimes it could be in your best interest to pull out. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not advocating the implementation of a National DNF is Best Group, it is not a decision to be made lightly or without a lot soul searching.  You want to avoid a DNF under almost any circumstances. DNF’s punch holes in your confidence, erode your discipline and soften your attitude. However, there are circumstances that are individual to each individual where a DNF is appropriate. It doesn’t make it any less of a bitter pill to swallow, but it does make it the smart decision. When that does happen then DNF stands for Do Nothing Foolish

Many runners enter an event with the same sliding scale of goals (1) Just to finish, (2) To get a certain time. And the ever present (3) Not to get a DNF. So when failing to finish does occur then the natural emotion is one of dissapointment. I know – I’ve been there. But it is also an opportunity. A chance to see what may be done differently next time.  A learning curve. A lesson in what did work. A lesson in what didn’t work – be that in the training and prep, clothing, kit, nutrition, etc. It is an opportunity to reflect, digest, and move on. To me that is what DNFing is – an opportunity.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
― Truman Capote

“Do you run fast then”

Runners and non runners alike often pose the question to their fellow runners or friends. The question that asks “How fast are you?”. It may come in varying alernative forms such as “What pace do you run at?” or “What time did you get?”.  But ultimately it means the same as “How fast are you?”

Once others are aware that you are a runner then enquiries often follow as to how quick you’ve ran a particular course, what is your average pace per mile, what Garmin do you use, and more recently – if you are on Strava.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those questions, or in fact, any runner who holds value in achieving quick times and measuring their own success by speed alone. It is not for I to judge the reasons that others run. Far from it. As I have already posted previously – I was that runner. The guy who was obsessed with pace, with timings, with getter faster, The guy who translated “how well I had done” as “how fast I had been”. I’m just not that guy anymore.

And I am not alone. Others had come to the same conclusion as I have much before I did. John Bingham has been promoting  that the goals of running should be to have fun and finish—and that for a vast majority of amateur athletes running fast should not be the only aim. He has been accused of being the man who ruined running. He opened up distance running to the majority and not purely for the reserve of the elite. His followers are called The Penquins and are made up of the “back-of-the-pack” runners–the man who took up running to lose 6 stone, the woman raising money for cancer research, the 65-year-old grandmother, etc. etc, etc. In my opinion he and his Penquins helped to make  running long distances the open, social, and inclusive sport that we all know and love now.

One of my personal inspirational runners was a retired potato farmer from Australia called Cliff Young. In 1983 he won the inaugural Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon – a distance of 544 miles. Whilst I am blown away by the fact he won (it truley is an amazing story), it is not his winning that inspires me the most. It is what he did after winning that is I find the most impressive. When Cliff was presented with a winner cheque for $10,000 he said “There are five other runners still out there doing it tougher than me,” and he gave them $2,000 each.

So what exactly is “slow”? Unless you are Anton Krupicka, Kilian Jornet, or Scott Jurek, then the chances are there will always be someone faster than you. Fast is relative. Fast is a state of mind and nothing more.

I will finish with a quote from John Bingham

“The freedom I feel after running a five-hour marathon… they might as well give me a medal. And then you have the guy who ran three hours and two minutes and was off his time by 10 minutes and hates himself”

Nuff said

29 April 2015

 After several days of post surgery enforced bed rest I have found this article on t’internet. Despite all of it’s high appeal and promises of excitment and adventure, day time telly failed miserably to keep me entertained, so I turned to the World Wide Web for saviour and found this article from The Guardian by Catriona Menzies-Pike

No need for speed: why slow running has its own joy

Many runners take satisfaction from fast times and improved speeds. But I’m quite happy with my slower, steady pace

In his book Why We Run, ultramarathon runner and biologistBernd Heinrich elaborates a theory of human evolution. Basically: running (fast) in pursuit of protein (antelopes) drove human evolution. If I’d been born into protohominid society I would have been naturally selected out of the gene pool. I also would have been hungry. I am a slow runner, ill-equipped to chase down my dinner.

Heinrich’s book is full of wonders – the section on how camels keep going in the heat is a cracker – but like most running gurus, he assumes that going faster is what it’s all about. This might be because he is a very decent runner himself. (He won the 1981 Chicago 100-kilometre ultramarathon and set a still-unbroken masters world record.)

Writers such as Heinrich who have only clocked one or two prestige event wins sometimes fancy themselves slow runners. For those of us at the back of the pack – the plodders, the hungover, the slowcoaches, the chatters, the injured, the unfit, the recovering, the hobbling, the steady, the untrained – that idea seems a little strange.

How slow are we talking? More tortoise than hare, I generally place somewhere in the second half of the field. Running a half marathon in around two hours is fine with me. I’d like to be able to run a little faster but it’s not a high priority. Given that I’ve been a regular runner for more than five years, I probably should have picked up the pace. But speeding up would require sprints and tempo runs – and I prefer long steady quiet runs. Very occasionally, I make an effort to run a bit faster for a few hundred metres. These half-hearted fartleksessions are about as far as it goes.

Sometimes it is a little awkward to admit I’m not giving it my all. Heavily coded back-and-forths about event times are hard to dodge. Here’s how it starts:

Fast runner: So, what time did you run?

Me: Yeah, pretty slowly.

Fast runner: [Gazes expectantly.]

Me: Didn’t break any records.

Everyone talks down their time – that’s good form. Still, it’s embarrassing to confess that you didn’t run hard on the day, and that you’ve slacked off on the training. “Next time, eh?” I’m never quite certain whether I’m being assured that my average performance will pick up – or that my limited athletic ambitions will one day get a boost.

Maybe the problem is that I struggle to see my runs around the kaleidoscope foreshore of Sydney Harbour as training sessions. They’re just runs to me. I’m busy stretching my legs and taking in what’s around me. Bothersome interval workouts are easily trumped. I’ve gambolled by penguins taking a morning swim in the harbour! There are miniature daschunds to hurdle and many diversions on my regular routes, such as the intriguing contents of council clean up piles and the seasonal inflections of the gardens. I’ve completed loads of half-marathons and four full marathons – but I don’t really think of them as races either.

Dubious doctrines of self-discovery and improvement via hard training and committed exertion abound – and to run slowly flouts them. It may be that I’m missing the opportunity to become a better person by taking it easy. I’ve been spoilt, I suppose, by proximate and ample sources of protein. All that tofu in the fridge has dulled my primal instinct to run faster.

I love running – and it’s a pleasure that I can’t measure with a stopwatch. Why would I sacrifice this pleasure to speed, ambition and competition? If I worried about my times, I’d be miserable. I’m happy to leave breaking records and clocking impressive times to other runners. If it works for them, great. Me, I’ve got no appetite for antelope.

21 April 2015

I donned my running clobber this morning, and as I was heading out the door I got a text from the hospital. It was the text I have been waiting almost 16 months to receive – I can safely announce that my surgery is taking place on (drum roll please) …………Mon 27 Apr Cool go me eh !!
Well I set off for my run after a quick call to book my pre op checks (2 blood tests tomorrow. Not just 1, but 2 of the bloody things 😦 ) I made way from home out to Dunge then on into Eddington. As I made my way through the village I saw a public footpath sign pointing up towards the Plain. I had never noticed that sign before so I headed off up the aforementioned footpath. I stayed on the path, climbing upwards for approx half a mile, until I lost the path entirely. I continued to climb upwards until I came across a trail left by some livestock (it was blatantly apparent to me by this time that I had in all likelihood stumbled onto private land – push regardless Neil). I followed the cattle trail until I saw a wooden cross peaking over the crest of the hill in the distance. I made my way towards the cross and also found a plague and small wooden bench next to it – surreal!
I followed the ridge of the hill looking for a path of any description. I dropped down onto the floor of the valley on two occasions, only to find that there was no way out and then having to climb back up to the crest of the hill again!!
I saw a road off to my right and from that managed to orientate myself. I will add at this point that I was NEVER lost. I may have been marginally geographically embarrassed. Never lost Cool
I drooped back down the hill, circumnavigating a large herd of sheep, over a locked gate, and then on the road leading down into Bratton.
I ran through the centre of Bratton before turning back towards Dunge and then the short climb up hill to West Ashton. Home reached after 2 hrs 9 mins. I am going to London on Thu until Sat so today may have been my last run for 3,6, 8 weeks? I will have to wait and see how the post op recovery plays Cool

15 April 2015

Ventured out the door this morning for a quick 56 mins pyramid session under the sun Cool In the words of the late, great, Robin Williams:
“It’s hot. Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking.” Well, can you tell me what it feels like. “Fool, it’s hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It’s damn hot! It’s so damn hot, I saw little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It’s that hot! Do you know what I’m talking about.” What do you think it’s going to be like tonight? “It’s gonna be hot and wet! That’s nice if you’re with a lady, but it ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle.”