Today I chose the wrong way round to do my 5-mile loop. But there were reasons to smile: the sun was shining brightly; I passed teachers on their way to school (where I used to work – hence my smarmy joy); and I’m going on a trip in a day, so what the hell? This strange wind which shoots across the coastline of north-west Norfolk won’t be where I’m going, will it?
No, there will instead be every reason not to go for a run. Maria and I are meeting for an M&MRC Eastern European adventure. We start in Vienna. Then we take the train to Zagreb and travel through Croatia and Montenegro. At the end we fly out of Tirana in Albania. Needless to say we are both very excited.
So, you can see: with islands and churches, waterfalls and lakes, buses and bikes, wine and wienerschnitzel, boats and exploring we might forget to put our trainers on.
Hang on a minute. We are a running club, are we not? We revel in new horizons and adventure. That’s the thing about holidays, there are new horizons everywhere. At every turn new sights and smells, tastes and words – and opportunities. I’m not going to suggest we run up the hairpin bends to the cliffs over Kotor, but thinking about it, I have no doubt there will be moments when we can run along the beach of our little island, or along the sea wall of a fishing village, or round the park of a city. We are not tourists. We are runners.
It’s about enjoying those different horizons. With a good friend. With trainers. With the promise of wine and fine food afterwards. You’ll always come back to the horizons you know.
Here are some views from one of my typical Hunstanton runs (not all taken the same day) which I’ll be leaving for the next few weeks. Here’s to the new horizons we run towards – check out the blog during June for some pictures!
… would still be running, right? Not according to some people.
What does the word jog mean to you? I’ve just been browsing on runnersworld.com and came across a comment posted about joggers. According to one (presumable) runner, “Only joggers get injured.”
What is that supposed to mean? Jogging is still the act of running, or so I am led to believe by dictionary definitions. The process of one step in front of the other, with never having both or all of the feet touching the ground at the same time still applies, does it not?
Further research tells me there is a speed element to the equation. According to some pros and the gadgets they use, if I run at a pace of 8 minute 15 seconds per mile, I am actually jogging. I need to shave 15 seconds off my minute-per-mile pace to qualify to be a runner. Oh dear. Put me in another category, then.
In my arrogant youth I used to think the same as the comment-maker on Runners’ World. “I am a runner, NOT a jogger!” I thought jogging was for older people who shuffled around parks in matching tracksuits. Don’t get me wrong, I always admired them. I applaud physical activity of any kind, in anyone. But, it isn’t exactly the same as dancing all night in the clubs of Buenos Aires and running a 49-minute 10km the next day on no sleep, is it?
Now, it turns out – I wasn’t even running! I was jogging all along!
Measuring a jog from a run is of course as arbitrary as what colour vest you wear is to your race time. (Damn Nextel for choosing yellow this year! I’m slower in yellow!) I looked up the history of the word jogging and it appears it was first used here in the UK. It features in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, though at that moment it meant ‘to leave’. By the 17th century it had worked its way to meaning a form of exercise. And that, essentially, includes running.
This historical point about jogging is important because once its meaning of sustained exercise was established, it hasn’t changed again over time. Its only problem is that it has been looked down upon by speed demons who fear 9-minute miles. Of course, I am not denying the difference in the actions of a sprinter and a jogger: the impact and power on the body of the sprinter compared to the endurance required when jogging is obvious. Yet we all run.
I believe that inside every runner is a jogger. You might not meet your jogger until you have bought your matching tracksuit and are jogging around your local park in your eighties. You might already have met your jogger on an uphill struggle (in that case, I meet mine regularly) You might not admit to having met your jogger in that last race, when there just wasn’t enough in the tank. But it’s a good job your inner jogger is there. Jogging is your warm-up and cool-down. Jogging is your health care plan for life. Jogging is your back-up plan for when, you know, running becomes too much.
So, to coin a phrase from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale; I say “JOG ON!” to those doubters and mockers of joggers. Leave! Run away! For when you might need your inner jogger, I hope they haven’t sprinted on ahead.
Maria sent me an email the other day. As well as the countdown to our trip (14 days!) she had come across a running quote she knew I’d like, and I want to share it with you today. I thought about it as I ran yesterday morning and it totally got me through the last mile with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.
Whenever your next run is, hope it gives you that wonderful view on your life.
“That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.” - Kara Goucher
Last week it was time to dust off the racket bag and see if we could remember how to hit a ball over a net. We went to play tennis.
Having been running, doing yoga and swimming, a mix in of tennis was going to be good thing. Until we realised after a couple of rallies that a) not only we were rubbish at tennis again, having last played about 9 months ago, but b) we were not match fit.
Running for miles at a steady pace, or even a shorter route at a faster pace has totally different fitness needs to a game of tennis. I loved playing tennis when I was younger and spent all summer at the school courts and all winter at Saturday morning tennis coaching. But I’ve played less as I’ve been on my travels and living here, there and everywhere. Then Martin and I started played in Buenos Aires. It was great because although we have very different strengths on the court, we’re quite evenly matched. Sometimes I would win, sometimes he would: the game was always worth it.
Until last weekend. The score is irrelevant (oh, go on then, I won) but what was interesting was the fact were knackered and breathless after a few rallies. Having to dart around the court for a few shots left us panting more than we thought it would. The pause between points got longer as we laughed at ourselves. The short, explosive bursts required in tennis are just not what we’re used to with our long running or swimming sessions.
What to do? Well, we need some match fitness practice and especially speed work which will no doubt help our overall fitness and not leave us bent double after a few points. Here are some ideas I remember from tennis club at school. Ah, the days of those drills…
- Ball retrieval: put some balls randomly around the court and sprint to get each one and back to the base line in between. I emphasis the point of sprinting. Not for joggers!
- Shuttle sprints: running from the base line to the service box line, back and then to the net and back and so forth. Again, as fast as you can. (In class we would race against each other and try not to puke.)
- Blind ball: this was a favourite of my tennis coach when I was 14. You stand with your eyes shut and back to the net on your half of the court. Your partner throws or hits the ball with a shout of “Go!” and you open you eyes and run to get it as quickly as possible. Yes, you guessed it, sprinting. Repeat until knackered.
Thinking about all this, I am now marvelling at my younger self, a middle distance runner with tennis match fitness. Ah, those were the days. I wonder if, even before my time, they worried about these things? Something tells me it wasn’t a priority for tennis ladies like this one. You would be more worried about tripping over the skirts before even reaching the ball in the first place.
Got any match fitness tips? Let us know!
I finally have chance to sit down and write. Sorry we’ve been missing. I wish I could tell you it’s because we’ve been traversing mountain passes and running through wind torn valleys. But no.
Ouch, actually. I’m feeling a bit tight in the quads. I guess that’s what happens when you put all your training for an up-and-coming 10 km into the six days beforehand.
Last Sunday we (the royal married ‘we’, not Maria and I together unfortunately) ran the Grand East Anglia Race (GEAR), a nice and flat 10 km around King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Here was my training plan:
Monday: Go for a fast 1.5-mile run to remind legs what running is and how it feels. It had been 12 days.
Tuesday: Run 4-mile route through fields, along cliffs and up little hills. Nothing like King’s Lynn.
Wednesday: Marvel as legs don’t feel too bad. WooHoo!
Thursday: Run the 4-mile route the other way round and with sun on my face do it in under 33 minutes. That hasn’t happened for a while! So chuffed with myself, I deserve a glass of husband’s home-brewed beer.
Friday: Fannying about at work means don’t get to the pool in time. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow.
Saturday: Get up and swim 1 km in the pool. Imagine it’s the sea and I’m on a tropical island. Leave the pool and need a coat.
Sunday: Run 10 km in 52 minutes and 14 seconds. The route sidles along the river, through the park and finishes in a flourish with a samba band motivating us through the final 400m. Celebrate with eggs, beans and bacon.
And, having got through it all swimmingly, running is back as its own thread of my week. I went out yesterday to keep the legs working, but I know I didn’t stretch enough, hence the tightness.
It feels good though. My mum is also back to her training for the Cambridge Race for Life (you might remember her being a running virgin last year) so our hallway is full of trainers. The sun has been shining and the wind is blowing at less than 80 mph. This bodes well; it makes us want to get out there.
The first race is out of the way. Nerves shivered through our bodies on the start line. The sun has arrived on the scene. Summer is not long – what can we squeeze out of it? How many runs do we have to reduce our times/actually get a new pair of running shoes and test them out/simply keep going? I remember last summer we started our half marathon training and squeezed as much out of the longer days as possible. We are starting to do that again. But what next? (Apart from a massage and some yoga stretches?)
There are so many options for summer running: trails, fun runs, marathons. I spoke to a very old school friend on Sunday who is off to try out the Edinburgh marathon at the end of this month. And a couple of weeks ago we had the runners shining on our television screens as they pounded the streets of London for their chosen charities; a warming sight, especially after the tragic events just days before in Boston. It is inspiring. Should I sign up? Should we sign up? Should we pledge our winter to training and have a fun summer just… running?
I’m not sure I can even plan that far in advance, but there’s no harm enquiring is there, via the charities I’ve already worked with (the ballot has already opened and closed!)? It’s just one email.
Blimey, one beautiful, sunny run quicker than expected and the need to squeeze in more is palpable. But that’s what summer is about.
Sorry running fashionistas, this post is not going to be about gorgeous running gear that makes you look fabulous when you feel like a tired, sweaty mess.
It’s about signing up for the GEAR 10km: the Grand East Anglian Run in King’s Lynn, which takes place on Sunday may 5th. Husband and I are signed up. After my post a few weeks back on which runs to do, I’ve kept it close to home and there are some reasons for this.
Life, at the moment, is unpredictable. We are currently living in Norfolk with the hope of moving away next week/month/soon. We don’t know where and we don’t know when, which makes it difficult to commit to things in advance in places which could be down the road/miles away/need a plane to get to.
So, as the GEAR was only a month away and just down the road it fitted the bill perfectly. Without shocking the world or getting a PB, I can get out of bed and run 10kms without any problems, but it’s something that means my runs between now and then with have an added oomph.
Also, some familiar faces will also be running the GEAR and there’s nothing like a bit of competitive spirit to shake things up.
So, I better get out there. Trouble is, on the subject of gears, I got my bike fixed last week and it’s a big draw for me, living in Norfolk. I used to ride these country lanes all the time when I lived here as a teenager. And last weekend I loved being out on my bike for the first time this year, with gears and brakes and wheels all working. The sun was shining and the pedal power worked to lift my mood out of a desperation to live somewhere with an average temperature over 4 degrees. Yesterday my mum and I biked to our yoga class. Now, where else can I bike to?
I guess it’s all good, though. The pool I swim in has been unavailable for the last three weeks, so having this extra workout all helps.
But the GEAR 10km won’t need me pushing through my bike gears to get round, it’s my legs that have got to do the work: road, foot, road, foot. The trainers are on and the bike is in the garage. It’s my own gears I’ve got to move through today.
For more information on the GEAR 10km or GEAR mini fun run, visit http://www.grandeastangliarun.co.uk/
You’ve read those stories.
Jean from Milton Keynes saw a picture of herself on holiday in Corfu and decided to lose weight. “I didn’t realise how fat I’d got, so I went on a diet and lost 10 stone eating yoghurt and melons. Now I feel great and I keep that photo stuck to my fridge so I’m never tempted to go in there and snack on the packets of mini chipolatas and sausage rolls my (16-stone) husband still buys.”
I have no intention of turning this blog into a weight-loss-tips-for-success site, but it is amazing how a dodgy shot of you can prompt a rush of angry blood around the body as trainers and leggings get put on and out you trot.
Actually, make that gallop. Yesterday I made a video for a friend of mine and while watching it back there was this horrible double chin moment. Nobody likes a double chin. And I know, it happens to us all (even Kate Moss as she stumbles drunkenly out of a concert guffawing at something), but, we’ll, it’s just not nice.
I needed to go for a run. I hadn’t been since the weekend. Now the days are longer you can actually get back from work (a school in my case), do some more work (marking in my case) and still hit the pavement in daylight hours. Brilliant. Last night it wasn’t windy at all (unlike today’s gales causing chaos around the UK), the sea was without a wave, almost glass-like and nothing daunted me.
Because here’s the thing: running when you’re angry or not happy with something SPURS. YOU. ON. Think about it. When you’re angry or frustrated you do everything faster: make decisions, sign cheques, walk, eat, talk/shout/moan, stab out texts/emails on your phone. So it goes without saying that the same goes for exercise.
The double chin had already made me put my trainers on. Then, for the first time in, well, years, I wanted some music to run to. My husband couldn’t find his iPod. Mine no longer works at all. My mum’s doesn’t work if it’s off its speakers. There was nothing to plug into. After ten minutes searching all ‘his’ drawers, still no iPod. (That’s a total other post on a totally other blog about him and losing/misplacing/never seeing again his things). Anyway, I needed to get out. I was ready so I just left: fuming at the world, its double chins and losing of things.
And I ran fast. I even laughed to myself as I went along, thinking how ridiculous it was to be running faster because I was mad. But it worked. I finished up the hill and could even exchange some jokes with an old lady as I passed her standing at the top. She had been watching me come up from the bottom.
“You made it!”
“Yes, thankfully you’ve been getting bigger and not smaller!”
Ah, old people. The ones round here love to joke with runners. “Are you tired yet?”, “Nearly done?” or “You’re going too fast!” are favourites of the Hunstanton Old Set.
So, next time you’re sitting there, wondering whether to go out running, get angry. Think about that idiotic thing your boss said; the injustice in the world; or just give my husband something to look after for you.
When you never see it again, you’ll run doubly quick.
There’s an article on National Geographic’s news website which my husband has just forwarded to Maria and I. You can read it for yourself here.
I just read it and smiled. It’s opening paragraph was me just two days ago.
I was in London, dashing between classes and workshops in different locations. Time was tight and although I couldn’t do anything about the bumbling buses and trains, when it was me and the pavement, I ran. Then I walked a bit. Then I ran some more. Then I walked again. Then I ran, my backpack juggling around on my back and my other bags swinging from side to side. I didn’t want to be late. I hate being late.
Apparently, this walk-run scenario I’ve just described happens to us humans a lot. Knowing we are pushed for time, we don’t necessarily run the whole way. Instead, we combine walking and running to conserve energy and still get there quicker. Manoj Srinivasan, professor at Ohio State University studying this theory calls this ‘the Twilight Zone’. I love this description. It’s “where you have neither infinite time nor do you have to be there now” he explains.
And for those runners who are pushing the distance, adding the miles, it’s a great theory to incorporate. I read a couple of years ago about a runner who wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon (that’ll be a sub-3.05 please, Sir, if you’re under 34 and a 3.35, Madam, if you will) and started to train using walk-run techniques. In his short walks on the longer runs, he was able to recover, conserve energy and ended up with faster overall times.
And you don’t have to be a super runner to see the benefits of this. New runners will also use the walk-run method when they first start out. It’s daunting to say you’re going to run without stopping at first. Walking and running makes sense. As Srinivasan points out, “It’s basically an evolutionary argument” and has served us well from caves to now.
There will be purists out there who say running isn’t running if there’s walking involved. I understand that. But let’s not be pig-headed about it. I’ve had horrendously tiring runs (my 18 miles in marathon training, which I’ve mentioned here before, was one of note) and I believe that if I had just taken some steps walking in amongst the hours of running, I would have finished quicker and a lot less sore.
Yesterday I got four emails about running events, different ones around the Europe: a woodland 10km in the south-east; a hilly affair in the west; an exciting half marathon in a city best known for shopping rather than running; and a lovely little jog around a park in the capital.
They will only keep coming, I know that. The weather is no longer a danger to limbs and lungs and it now gets light before you get up, which helps. These race organisers know that now is the time to whet the competitive spirit, thrust a challenge onto the unsuspecting new runner and lay down the gauntlet to running heroes and villains. It’s the time to sort out those training plans and work out just how many weekends you can dedicate to charity runs in places where you know people. Now is the time to set a goal.
I say now, in February, because January is filled with so much pressure on doing/not doing/target-setting/changing that now all that waffle is over, you can be realistic and pick stuff that you want to do; that you’re going to do. In the fever of January (and this has happened to me before) you can sign up for all sorts and then forget about them until they come knocking one week before and you are in no way prepared physically/economically (how much?)/practically (how do you get to those woods in Wales on a Sunday morning?)
So, now the idea is making your neurons dance and legs twitch in anticipation, the dilemma is: which race? Fun and for charity? Something for a distance personal best? A route with mountains to distract you? One to combine with a holiday/city break? The choice is endless.
And once you’ve signed up, what then? The adrenalin kicks in, the planning starts, the trainers get on, maybe a new piece of kit gets bought. You work out how to get there. You let everyone know you’re doing it, so there’s no wimping out. Perhaps you get a mate or loved one involved for support and inspiration. Or maybe you go it alone: it is your challenge, your personal quest.
In life as much as in running, we need something to aim for, to look forward to; a date in the diary for something we have chosen. And when the moment comes, we soar. From the start line, up, up and away we go. We’ve worked towards it. It’s our freedom as livers and runners and we must enjoy it, remembering the joy at the click: SIGN UP HERE.
So, back to my inbox. Where do I go? How far? Who with?
Ping! And there’s another running event to put into the melting pot.
What running events are you doing this year in the UK, USA or anywhere? Let us know, tips and recommendations welcome!
After my last post – you know, the one where because I was exercising again I was a serene angel of peace and calm and not cranky whatsoever – I feel bad about writing this. But I have to be honest. I am sitting here all cross and angry and… OK, OK, I’ll admit it:
A while back someone wrote to us at this blog asking for tips on Cruce de los Andes; the annual 3-day race through the Andes from Chile to Argentina, which takes a different, crazy route each time. Last year Maria and I, as M&MRC, completed it together. We did Equipo 90 (Team 90) proud and it was an incredible three days, documented here.
Anyway, as I told our enquirer, I hadn’t had a look at where Cruce was going this year. Other life stuff had taken over. We were both in new places again. And I couldn’t bear to see what I’d be missing out on.
Then yesterday came. February 5th: this day one year ago was when we ran over the finishing line on day three of Cruce de los Andes. Can it be a whole year? Time has flown. We have run many more steps since (and some of them together). But we haven’t run anything as important or special as those we made a year ago.
So, curious, today I look up Cruce and see what’s going on. Again, it looks like a very special race. They haven’t started yet. The favourites are there, on the website and Facebook. Everyone is gathering in Pucon, Chile… WHAT? The race starts in Pucon! Only one of my favourite places in the world! And just the other day were discussing volcanoes over dinner and I was telling people about climbing Volcán Villarrica. Oh how I would love to be there…
And the routes! Amazing! A few less kilometres (although we know those Argentines can’t count very well!) AND less inclines! AND more volcanoes (now that Maria and I are experts at them and the slide-down-snow-technique)! I could go on, but there would just be more, annoying !!!
The sun has just poked its head out from behind the grey, miserable clouds it’s been hiding behind all day. The rain has stopped. Are the Running Gods trying to tell me something? Laura, put on your trainers and go for a run. Join them.
But I sit here, reliving, refreshing, recounting. I want to join them, I really do.
But there, not here.