About a month after I wrote part one of this story, I found out that I actually HAD got a place in the Virgin London Marathon 2014 after all. Go figure. By this time it was only 15 weeks until Race Day and I hadn’t run for quite a lot of the winter. And a Marathon is 26.2 miles, so this was a bit scary. I thought I better start hating running a bit less and loving it a bit more.
The first thing to do was to tackle the 3 major problems I was having with running (1. it’s boring 2. it hurts 3. I’m slow – read more about that here). I figured that doing this was the correct place to start, because quite frankly, the amount of crazy, contradictory advice I was now receiving from all corners of my life regarding the right way, the ONLY way to conduct yourself during a marathon was getting a little overwhelming. Go at your own pace. Go at everyone else’s pace. Use gels. No, don’t use gels, use sports drinks. Pick up your heels, warm up using THIS technique, don’t listen to them, listen to me. Here’s seven samples of the ONLY worthwhile protein shake. No, don’t use protein shakes, eat a lot of oily fish. Etc etc. and on and on. But most often, what I was hearing was ‘you’re crazy!’ And this was not helpful advice in the slightest. But I WOULD drive myself crazy if I didn’t tackle my own personal stumbling blocks (STUMBLING blocks. Running. Geddit?!) So here’s what happened next…
Problem One – It’s Boring.
So, running is dull, and marathons are long. So there’s a lot of dull to look forward to there. And things being dull is my number one reason for giving them up. So I thought about ways to tackle that. There are all the usual things of course. Headphones – music, podcasts. That brilliant Nike app where your Facebook friends can cheer you on AS you run. Without even having to leave their sofa! Brilliant. But even with those things, I was finding the idea of leaving my house and running further and further away from it, only to turn around and come back again mind numbingly boring. Then I hit upon an idea.
I just happen to live near one of the most beautiful areas of woodland I’ve ever had the pleasure of traipsing through wearing Lycra and scaring squirrels. And it just happens to have a natural running track in the centre of it. I figured out that running round it 2.5 times equals 1 kilometre. And I like pretty places and I like repetition. And I like the fact that undercover of trees, where no one can see you, is the ideal place to grimace in pain unattractively, and correct any wedgie you might have accumulated over the past mile. So I started running round this track in incredibly repetitive circles whenever I went out for my long runs. And surprisingly, making this boring thing even MORE boring somehow made it less boring. Who’d have thought it?
Problem Two – it hurts
So, running hurts. This is fact. There are things you can do to make it hurt less, like warming up properly, or practicing distance runs, and speed runs, and running up hills on purpose (double ouch). But regardless of this, running any great distance is going to be painful, and your brain is going to be screaming GO AND SIT ON THE SOFA AND EAT BISCUITS in your ear. Because those things don’t hurt at all, unless you are allergic to biscuits and your sofa is made of bees. So I decided that I needed to look at things a different way. And this is what I came up with:
Exercise is good for your brain because it releases happy chemicals called endorphins. Which, to my mind, look like grinning golden dolphins, surfing a glistening sea of rainbows and cupcakes. These endorphins lubricate your brain and make it all gooey and slippy and happy, which is especially good in winter, when a lack of sunlight and therefore serotonin is making your brain into a shrivelled lump of misery. And I have depression which is most prominent in winter, so running is great for kicking its ass. Sometimes I actually feel euphoric whilst running. And that DOESN’T hurt. In fact, it feels great. So THAT’S the part to focus on and not the part where my legs are aching and my lungs are falling out through my mouth.
Problem Three – I’m slow
This probably isn’t going to change. I mean, I might get a little faster with practice and training, but the truth is that when I run I conduct myself like a cross between a very very graceful bird who has recently had a stroke, and Roger Bannister with only one leg. That’s not a recipe for Mo Farrah-like speed. I need to just accept that and be okay with it. After all, it is my race. I just want to get to the end. If I can do that, I am happy.
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