What I learnt whilst running – look out for what’s in front of you.

A couple of months ago I went running alongside an estuary. It was a glorious day. There was hovering low sunlight and the reflections beamed off the water. Birds, flocked together, powered through the air noiselessly.

I was so taken in by what was happening around me that I didn’t see the rabbit hole that left foot ended up in. I crumpled on a heap on the gras clutching my left ankle and shouted profanities safe in the knowledge that the nearest person must be a mile, possibly two, away.

I was so annoyed with myself. How did I not see it? What an amateur mistake!

I then hobbled back to the car, shoulders hunched over and profanities reduced to the mumbling of a madman.

Obviously I vowed not to make that mistake again. On the next run, I looked only at my feet. It was quite boring. Feet – at least for me – are boring.

It didn’t take long to realise that, whilst running and generally in life, you need to be aware of what’s immediate around you so you don’t tread in any rabbit holes (real or metaphorical). However, it is also as important to look up and look ahead.

Being constantly stuck in the now is necessary but monotonous. Looking ahead is exciting but unobtainable if you keep falling down holes.

An eulogy to my running shoes; Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16.

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For half my life, I was advised not to go running. Old injuries have left me with missing  bits of cartilage and torn ligaments in one knee. I should expect arthritis in my early thirties (tick) and stick to swimming or cycling.

That is until I met a Swedish NHS physiotherapist called Lars, whose advise was simple: “You need to use your knees to keep the muscles strong. If you don’t, your weak muscles will only cause more problems. Running will be fine as long as you take it slow and rest when you’ve done too much.”

He made it sound so simple. It was. The best advice often is, but seems easily forgotten. He did add that a good pair of trainers were imperative. Nothing from Sports Direct. Go to a specialist shop, get a fitting and invest properly.

Well, I did 2 out of 3. I went to a shop, had a fitting. I tried on all Saucony, Asics and Brooks and it was the latter that fitted best. As well as having one dodgy knee, I also overpronate (which was never a problem as a sprinter in my teens and early twenties).

The Brooks shoes may have been the best for my knees but the price wasn’t. Nearly £120 in store. So I did whatever discerning consumer does, went online instead. I found a pair at Start Fitness for £80. I wanted to invest not get ripped off. I know I should feel guilty for denying a local shoe seller the sale but I live in the middle of the countryside; most of my shopping is done online as online is my nearest shop! I don’t have affinity to the high street.

Since they arrived, just over a year ago, they have not let me done. They’ve put up with a 15 stone lump dragging them around roads, lanes, forest paths and beaches with no letting up. Sadly I haven’t lost much weight as I still eat too much, but they still do everything I have asked.

I don’t track my runs but I estimate that I have covered just over 500 miles, which is roughly the distance from where I live in Devon to Luxembourg. My knees have held up OK with occasional aches and no significant pain. Why didn’t I do this earlier?

Over the year, I have learned a lot about myself through running. Running has been a saviour when life gets difficult. It has taught me to keep going. It has taught me that if I keep going, I might be capable of things I didn’t think possible.

I don’t think I would have learnt these things is a pair of £30 from Sports Direct!

When I started, I could only run for 20 minutes. Now I average three hour long runs a week.

In fact, as a farewell to my shoes, I completed the infamous (in Devon) Drogo 10. I trudged round with a friend and think we squeezed into the top 99.75% of the field but that didn’t matter – we did it. I never thought I could cover that distance, let alone with such a big bugger of a hill in the middle.

When I finished, I thought that a half marathon might be possible. I had turned something that was impossible a year ago to something that is actually plausible.

Now it’s time to put the old GTS 16s out to pasture in the garage as their successors, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17, are poised for the year ahead. If I hadn’t invested in the GTS 16s, I doubt I would be looking ahead for another year, and I don’t just mean a running.

In terms of branding, quality is king. When it came to which trainers buy next, it had to be another pair of Brooks. Online proved a saviour this time as I found a pair at Run4it. I will look forward to retiring those shoes next year and thinking about the things they have helped me achieve.

 

What I learnt whilst not running.

Over the past year, I have run consistently 2 or 3 times a week without fail. This week I need time off. And that’s OK.

Naturally I would be inclined to feel like a failure at this point as I can’t do what I want to but actually my body needs a break. I have a pesky cold that won’t shift. My feet ache and haven’t recovered fully from the 10 mile event I did a couple of weeks ago. I’m also feeling pretty drained from what has been a difficult couple of months.

I suppose when your a runner, you need to know when not to run. Actually a week off is just going to give my body chance to recover – which o desperately needs.

After all I am not an athlete. My career doesn’t depend on my physical ability. I’m also not training for an event. I’m also not running for my figure or ego. So a week off won’t matter.

What will matter is being in the right condition to run. If I am full of cold and feet ache, I’m not going to enjoy it therefore not point in doing.

To enjoy running, you need to be physically well in order to do it, especially when you are the larger side like me at 6’2″ and 210lbs.

My aim of running is to help my head as much as anything. If I loose a bit of weight, great or if I run some events, fine.

The purpose of running is to be is to stay healthy over the next 20 years plus. A few days off in the scheme of things won’t matter.