Musings about routines and racing

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I would say that I am not competitive. Everyone who knows me would 100% disagree with that statement.

Anyone who has read one or two posts here knows that I don’t ever run races; never have, never will. I enjoy running for what it is and making it more stressful by adding the element of competing against people other than myself would absolutely kill it for me. Besides, another thing you might know by now, is that I am a total misanthrope. If I can avoid the throng of crowds then I absolutely will. But that wasn’t what I was going to write about, I was going to write about running books.

I have read a few of them, not too many, because I almost find them a bit stressful. It’s like seeing people out running when you are not – even if you had just completed a run. Anyway, the few books I have read have all taken it as a granted that if you run, you also run races. Be it ParkRun 5k’s or (half) marathons. Surely I cannot be the only person who is semi-obsessed with running without any interest having already spend the morning queuing for toilets, has to line up at the start line with a crowd of other people , dodging their discarded water bottles and gel packets while jostling for space as you complete the run. Yuck…

I can understand that preparing for a race can be motivating and helps you to get out there and bang out those runs in between. But for me, personally, I am currently doing two 23km hilly runs every week and the thing that gets me out there is mainly the fact that I know how awesome I will feel afterwards. I am totally, absolutely addicted to the afterglow. And not just that, but the moments after you have broken the pain barrier and have eased into the run and your mind just starts to wander. And wonder. You cover distances in a trance only to come of it and realise you have no idea where the last few kilometres went. Of course, some runs are just shit and there is no trance except for the one you enter when you mutter “please be over, please be over” repeatedly.

I also quite like my routine. Twice weekly, every week,  I run the same exact distance on the same exact pavements, in the same exact direction. I know where it’s hard and when it get’s better. I know that at exactly the 1km point I will suddenly feel very warm and start sweating, be it winter or summer. I look forward to the big uphill which I masochistically love and the sloping downhill on a narrow path that I have come to call my “Power-up Alley” because it always boosts me up. I love the feeling of being able to predict what is coming and how each leg of the run will feel.

At the same time I am consciously trying to be ok about breaking the routine as well; to not need the 23km in order to feel ok about my run. A few months ago I went to Majorca for 8 days. It is very hilly and there is no way to get a nice run in without doing some decent climbing. I mentally I had to switch gears; I ran every day, only about 10km each time but half of it was up a very very steep hill, then trail running around a mountain a steep downhill back home. I came back home feeling invigorated and my running has been back on track ever since (I have had a pretty tough time with this this year).

But the absolute best part of that run? There was rarely anyone at all out there. I had the roads and the trails all to myself. Well, to me and the wild goats… So maybe I don’t race because I am not competitive or because I am too competitive – maybe it’s just because I don’t like sharing my runs with anyone other than the thoughts in my head.

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