Success, failure, achievement

It was a moderately warm, still day, with a light drizzle. Perfect for running. But I did not run 20 miles. In fact, I only ran just over 10 miles; I just felt low energy for the second half. Now, the question I face is: should I be disappointed with this and call it a failure? I think, not. I had a good run – 10 miles is no short sprint – and I enjoyed the lovely autumn air and atmosphere around the reservoir. Yes, I didn’t ‘achieve’ my plan and will still have to train to 20 miles before mid-September (to accommodate the tapering of my training before the marathon), but overall it was a good run and one that added to my total running this week. My longest run is still around 17 miles. I shan’t be beating myself up.

This is another lesson from running. A target is an aim, and it is good to have them for the purposes of training. But every run is its own event and has its own life. Some time ago I decided to run as I felt in the midst of it, regardless of what I planned. I guess this is another aspect of running in the now, and it works for me.


There has been a long gap since my last post. I cannot remember what I intended to say about Zen when I promised to post about it when writing again. For this, I apologise. I shall have more to say on that topic, but not just now.

The summer is over, and September is already bringing cooler days and evenings. Although the late summer flowers are still in bloom, many are turning to seed, and the super-abundance of verdant July and August has slipped into a yellowing ripeness and fullness. September always feels like both an ending and a beginning, though; the excitement of a new academic year still gets me, even though I do not work in a university anymore. I always feel the start of September is like a mini New Year, an opportunity to renew and refresh commitments and resolutions.

Throughout the summer I continued to run and to increase my distances on the weekend long runs. The fear of being unable to stagger through a half-marathon has faded into memory, although it was only a few weeks ago that I withdrew from the Southport race. Tomorrow, in the rain, I shall attempt twenty miles; this will be the longest distance I will aim for before the marathon on 2nd October, although I might repeat it in a couple of weeks. It will be a new record for me (provided I finish). But it will be a new marker for the future, rather than a completion of something from the past: the point from which I shall be able to call myself a long-distance runner, in my terms at least. From this, I shall have a point to start a ‘new year’ of running.  I hope I can do it. Wish me luck!


UPDATE: it was raining so much today I deferred until tomorrow morning, Sunday. I suppose I’m a wimp, but over long distances there is chafing from wet gear to consider.


Having claimed I am occasionally unstoppable in my last post, I am conceding here that I am very stoppable at the moment. It is ten days since I last went for a run. The cold (or flu – it has been quite nasty) that held me back initially has settled temporarily on my chest with a full cough, tightness, and some mild breathing difficulties. I understand it is ill-advised to run with such symptoms because it only adds pressure to lungs and heart. I still feel fairly rotten too. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be overly concerned because it doesn’t take too long to get up to speed after a lay-off, but I am supposed to be approaching the peak of my training for a half-marathon, scheduled for 2nd July. The only positive thing I can say at this stage is that I am not running for any particular charity for this race, so I would not be letting anyone down if pulled out. But I really would rather run.

I’ll keep you posted.

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

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.


Not running

For the past week or so I have been unable to get out for a run. A combination of the return of the tricky right knee pain and low-level cold symptoms have drained both capacity and motivation. However, I know that a few days off to recover won’t actually do me and my training that much harm. What are interesting are the psychological states that follow. First, the sense of disappointment with oneself for ‘allowing’ the injuries; then the frustration. These are fairly obvious. It’s what comes next that intrigues me: a feeling, tucked away at the back of my thoughts that I might not be able to run again, that somehow my muscles and heart and lungs will waste away so that I simply won’t be able to put the effort in, and, most oddly, that I won’t want to. It’s an odd, niggling concern that I know from past experiences of injuries and illness just isn’t based in reality. However, it’s reoccurrence on every occasion of lay-off suggests it is pointing at something about myself that running is showing me. That thing is a fear of failure. A fear of failure that has the potential to paralyse me into inaction and retrospective ‘excuses’ for why I didn’t want to do it in the first place … Further reflection is required.