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In the long run 2

David, I think you are right. And I agree. But I also feel gnawing anxiety that there could be something more to this. It is the quote from Matthew Syed that caught my attention, the thing about a fragmented world and that the personal challenge events will just will keep growing. Isn’t there a kinship between a fragmented world and personal challenge events? When one thinks of running, isn’t there a risk that running could become more of a tool to create an identity as a runner, and that every run or workout becomes a cog in this machinery, especially if one loses the joy of running?

I think the question derives from another question, more all-embracing and diffuse: why do we run?

In the long run

Long run planning

Well, here’s my plan for this Sunday’s long run, starting at my parent’s house in Darwen, Lancashire:

17km run for 1st May 2016

During it I intend to think through what might happen next with my career. I am at a crossroads point (a mid-life crisis, in other words) and I need to find meaningful and value-driven work, while earning a reasonable living. I suspect I am not alone in the struggle to solve his dilemma!  Any advice is always welcome. 🙂

In the long run

Yesterday’s weekend long run was 16.16km according to my GPS tracker, which is more or less 10 miles. I hadn’t planned to run quite that far. I have begun to use a more structured plan for working towards my marathon in October and my schedule dictated that I should aim for a 12km run. However, the London marathon was on the TV before I set out, and seeing so many people running with such determination for excellent causes – people of all ages, shapes and sizes – I realised that there would be solidarity in my own running that I don’t often consider; even as I slog round the reservoir, cocooned in mist, seemingly completely alone, I am always sharing in a world-wide human effort of meeting a challenge head-on, and making the world a better place in the process. The image of all those courageous people fixed in my mind and became a fabulous inspiration to try that little bit harder as I set out yesterday. And so I did: three laps (the 12km) easily slipped into four.

This led me to consider how I might use a training plan, if I’m already off-piste, so to speak. And then it occurred to me that the schedule is a plan for my body, whereas real training, like the inspiration of seeing the London marathon, is something more, something for the mind. And as it happens there was a nice little piece in the Times newspaper today by Matthew Syed. In a comment article about the London marathon he concludes:

“In a capitalist world, it is so easy to feel like a cog in some giant machine. As lawyers, accountants, shelf-stackers, we perform tiny functions in vast operations, rarely seeing the ultimate value of the things we create.

“The marathon is different. We see the thing through from the first, faltering training run all the way to the finishing line on The Mall. Isn’t this why Hillary wanted to climb Everest? Isn’t this why cooking a meal from scratch is so life-affirming? Isn’t this why when you write a book, you feel like crying for joy when the bound manuscript arrives from the publisher?

“The more the global economy fragments, the more we will crave these experiences of reward and completion. It is why personal challenge events will, I suspect, just keep growing.”

Matthew Syed, The Time, 25/04/16

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/the-london-marathon-is-all-in-the-mind-c6jl0d89g

In the long run (pun absolutely intended), this is spot on. As I set out on my 24 week programme (now already 23 weeks), I intend to keep it flexible enough that inspiration and the need to feel the challenge as something I am doing myself – rather than a mechanical process of working my legs, heart and lungs –  are at the core of my running.

In the long run, this will be the only way to really succeed and meet the challenges ahead.

 

Thinking while running 2

I agree with Lars in his last post: whatever comes up while running is completely unplanned. Like dreams the thoughts emerge from the subconscious, floating like colourful balloons to the surface of conscious thought. And I’m sure the effort of running helps release the strings that normally hold them down to the bottom.

It occurred to me during my long run on Sunday that there is an important lesson for understanding procrastination in running itself. The thought just arrived, almost fully formed.

Running is one of the few things that I do that I tend not to put off. And yet it is hard work, often difficult to begin with, and sometimes even painful. Easier things like completing a short piece of writing for work are put aside and delayed over and over until they become urgent (or late) and create a sense of panic. I prefer to waste time on the internet, or reading irrelevant books, or binge watching old episodes of The X-Files on Amazon Prime. So the question is (it seemed to me as I struggled up a hill track through mud) if procrastination is simply the act of preferring to do easy things, what am I managing to circumvent now, in doing this ridiculous thing, in running? And I think the answer lies in self-judgement.

I rarely judge myself when running in the same way I do professionally and in other contexts. I might think, ‘oh that run could have been better’ or ‘I nailed the pace I set out with today!’ but these thoughts are superficial notes, passing placeholders, not the burdensome sense of perfectionism I feel about other activities. Running is never perfect; I don’t know what it would look or feel like to be so. But in other areas I have surrounded myself with a belief that there are forms of life that I could become and should become perfect in. And from this it follows that even straightforward tasks and jobs are always going to be imperfect in some way; at which point they stop being straightforward and become impossibly hard. Hence the preference for the easy distractions that I call procrastination. At that point I realised I had had a bit of an epiphany.

Running has taught me that nothing is perfect, and that nothing is imperfect either. I am fairly sure that this thought was always there, but it was the act of running that revealed the truth and liberated the thought for conscious examination.

So, yes, it’s really amazing what comes up while running!