I’ve never approached running with the ferocity and determination that so many do. Sticking to plans. Focusing nutrition and cross training etc. I just like to run. I don’t complicate it with thinking about the mechanics and science of it all. Normally my runs are disjointed in some way. Reactive maybe. Something happens. I feel something. I do something. Very process driven like how my mind works. But an intermittent or broken process with little control to it.
2018 has seen a change for me though. Not intentional. But like the old adage of riding a bike or learning to drive, something has ‘just clicked’. The recent Malta marathon was the moment of realisation for me. So where do I begin attempting to translate a ‘feeling’ or suspected biological connection into some words on a blog? I’ll go for a recap of the marathon in Malta and see where that leads…
I went to Malta conflicted. I wasn’t really bothered by the race. It was a tick box in my 12 month challenge. Neither exotic nor intriguing to me. I’d never had a strong desire to visit (its lovely by the way!). There are/were bigger races in the year to focus on and I was here alone with no one to discuss my thoughts with. So I was half-minded to just run and enjoy. My goals said “be a tourist”. I failed that. Sort of. Besides that I was on the back of a pb at muscat. A big pb. One where I ran sections faster than I thought I could. There was a subconscious target now. I knew what I could do. To not replicate it would be to not perform as I now know I could. And I’m stupidly competitive with myself. No offence, I couldn’t give a shit about competing with you or anyone else. Why should we? Be the best version of you that you can be. If that happens to make you the best in the world, even better! But you have to beat yourself first to achieve that.
I arrived at the start line and deep down I knew I’d race myself. I knew I’d struggle to resist. And that’s exactly how it went!
The one conscious decision I’ve made with running this year is to enjoy it more. Embrace
the runs. Look around and absorb the places I run. You see a lot over a marathon distance. Or you will if you take time to look around and see your surroundings. Maybe this has helped me? I’m running with a smile. Free of the time pressures (sort of. I know that contradicts the competitiveness in me). And that’s how Malta went. I was constantly looking around and enjoying the scenery. I’m so glad a few photos have captured me in this moment. I recognise now that I’m seeing what’s around me.
In addition to that though, I feel more. I feel me. I feel what I’m doing. What I’m feeling. What’s happening and reacting. I’m able to say ‘this feels good’ that whatever I’m running is comfortable (or not). Assessing whether it’s sustainable and making decisions on the back of it. I’m forming plans on the go. Saying I’ve got this, maintain this or change it. It’s now like my body and mind are on the same process. As an aside. I love processes. Process maps (I’m tempted to draw one here!). The inputs are my feelings. My muscles. My tendons. My nerves. Sending signals to my mind. Of course they are. This is how the body works. It’s not new. But being in touch with them and acknowledging them is new for me. I’m hearing what my body is saying. “ your breathing is off. You are panting”. “There is a hill coming up”. “You’re struggling with this pace” etc. I feel I’m now able to register that and quickly process it into an “ok, listen up, here is what we are going to do about it”. That’s the action or workflow in my process. And, my body is listening and reacting back. Before I’d look at my watch, notice the pace isn’t what I want, say to my body step it up. And then, nothing. I can’t. I’m either too far gone or it takes too long to change, by which point something else has happened. Now it’s almost instantaneous. My mind says step it up, my lungs take in the air, my legs do the work. Outputs. Boom. Input, action, output. A perfect functioning process. A cycling loop of feedback and continuous improvement (I’m mixing work with pleasure here. Such a geek). As the saying goes “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream”. And it’s not just about ‘stepping it up’. It’s both ways. Hearing that it’s too much and figuring out what is better. What’s more sustainable over the long term. It is after all ‘ a marathon not a sprint’. Such cheese. I don’t apologise.
And whilst this is going on, I’m aware. Aware not just of me. But aware of the run. The surroundings. My smile. I’m running strong and happy. Above all else I’m smiling. I’m embracing my runs. I’m learning. I’m becoming a part of them. I’m not just someone ‘doing’ a run. It might click for you. It might not. But, find away to obtain your connection and become a part of it.