Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Why I run

When I first started running a couple of years ago, I'm not sure what my motivation for starting was. I think I'd come to a realisation that I wasn't as physically active as I should be and running is a (almost) free and accessible activity.

Around this time, I had also discovered the running and cycling app, Strava through friends and this helped add an extra incentive, as I could track progress and compete against other runners.

But over time, my philosophy and relationship with running has changed quite a lot. I read a profile of a fellow runner from Sweden last week, which I think sums up my current feelings, it said: "I don't train, I don't race, I run!".

I know this probably doesn't sound like a particularly dramatic declaration for motivation, but I found this simple message really powerful and relatable.

I'm not a natural distance runner, I never have been. At school I excelled at athletics, but my limit was 400 metres and rather than being tall and slim, I'm short and broad. Basically, I'm fully aware that at the age of 32, I'm not going to be winning any races, my Pb for 5 km is just over 22 minutes. But, this is okay, I'm not running to race.

In the past, I've taken part in organised events, I took part in my first ever half and full marathons last year and the purpose of going running was to train for these. But training for these events took the joy out of running for me, as I felt obliged to run certain distances, in the knowledge this was needed to cope on the day of the runs.

So the reason I love running, is because of the experience of the act itself. On a good run you have the opportunity to get lost in the moment, to explore what's going on in your head, in your environment and push yourself to your physical, mental and emotional limits.

As a runner, I've also seen parts of my own and other cities that I wouldn't normally see. I've seen times of day and experienced extremes of weather that you'd normally try to protect yourself from. Whatever your level of ability the battle is ultimately against yourself, how hard you want to push yourself is up to you.

At it's worst, running can be painful, exhausting and demoralising. But, at its best running can be an exhilarating, uplifting, an almost spiritual experience and this is my experience the vast majority of the time. This is why I run.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Getting back in to the rhythm

For anyone who's ever studied sports science you'll know that there is an acronym, S.P.O.R.T which lays out the principles of fitness training.

Over the first week and a half of my 5k a day challenge, one of these principles has caused me a great deal of pain and frustration.

The letters of the acronym stand for specificity, progression, overload, reversibility and tedium and the one that's been troubling me is reversibility.

If you've ever reached a level of fitness and then stopped training for any reason, whether it be injury or laziness, you'll be fully aware that when you start training again your body plays a bit of a cruel trick on you. Painfully quickly you'll come to the realisation that what you were once able to do, you no longer can.

Last year I ran my first half and full marathons, to do this I was running 3 or 4 times a week, between 10 and 40 km. So when I set myself this challenge to run 5 km every day in 2016, I thought physically it would be fairly straight forward.

However, after a couple of months without running regularly, running 5 km again has felt like a massive test on my stamina. As well as the physical effects, this has a big mental impact too. It's hard for you to accept that what used to be a pretty standard run,
is now absolute agony.

But along with trying to raise money for Rethink, getting back on the road and pushing myself mentally and physically over the course of the this year was part of my motivation and this is the first hurdle I've got to overcome.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The 5k a day challenge has started!

So I've completed the first four runs of my challenge, it's been a tough start but at least I've only got 362 to go!

The reason I've decided to take on this year long fundraising effort, is to try and raise a bit of money and awareness about a charity called Rethink. They do really important work, tackling the stigma that's attached to mental health issues.

It's a really sad fact, that in 2016 mental illness is still so misunderstood and ignored. There is a real reluctance to discuss mental health openly and honestly in our society, which only perpetuates the problem.

But the sad truth is, at any one time one in four of us is suffering from mental health problems. That basically means you, a family member, a work colleague, a friend or a number of these people are likely to be suffering, right now.

That's why this cause is so important, because we are all affected. So over the coming months, I hope my running efforts and this blog will help stimulate a discussion and make a positive difference.