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
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.