A simple question on the face of it and one very simple answer.
When I first put on my running shoes back in October 2015 my goal was vague but had good intentions. I quite simply wanted to get fitter so that I could enjoy a more active lifestyle with my then unborn daughter. I wanted to be able to run around the garden, park or fields with her. I wanted to be able to keep up with her as she got more active and fast. I knew back then that I was not fit and definitely not able to run around with her for any period of time without getting out of breathe and having to stop. As any parent knows, children don’t stop for a breather so I had to do something.
Back in 2015 my goal was just to get fit but how do you achieve “getting fit”, what are the steps required to get there. As with any goal in life you have to plan your route to success. Plan those small but achievable goals which form the roadmap to your end goal. For me I started off running a 1.2 mile loop near home. Now I think 1.2 miles, right I could run that in under 7 minutes flat out, but 2015 Cheshire Runner was nowhere near that fast. My first attempt took me 19.47, I stopped four times and I felt sick. To put that into context. My current 5k PB is 18.06. So that first step to getting fit? for me it was to run that 1.2 mile route without stopping. Within that step I set myself 3 mini steps. Firstly run with only stopping 3 times, then 2 times, then once. Clear signs of progress. I guess what I am getting at here is, don’t overreach, don’t set yourself a goal of running a marathon straight off the bat. Of course, you can do and many have, but lots more have tried and failed. The key is to keep yourself motivated and engaged with what you are trying to achieve.
By breaking that goal of getting fit, into smaller chunks, I had the highs of smashing it each time I achieved one of those smaller steps. The feeling I had when I ran that 1.2 miles nonstop was like I had just won a race. It was massive for me and gave me such a boost of confidence to then move on and push further.
One question I asked myself very early on into my adult running life was, when is this going to get easier? and you know what, I have learnt and taught myself that running is easy. You put one foot in front of the other and move your body forward…. repeat x amount of times. On the flip side of that I have also learnt that running is a nightmare, it is never easy. I, like most runners, am not content with just running a set distance. I want to run it faster next time, that never ending cycle of pushing myself to the extreme to run harder, faster and further. The constant drive to improve and try to find that mystical best version of yourself that everyone talks about. Truth be known, I don’t know what the best version of myself looks like and I don’t believe that I will ever achieve that. I am not throwing the towel in and giving up in that quest, merely it is a quest that has no ending. When I get to a point where I feel I am at my best, well thats the target for tomorrow or the next day. I will simply keep pushing and keep working harder and harder to beat yesterday.
So now in April 2018, 30 months into my adult running life. Why do I run?
Lets start by looking back to my original goal. To “get fit”. I am now the fittest I have ever been. I eat a clean diet, I have massively reduced my dairy intake, always take a more vegan friendly choice when eating out, I am not vegan but it is something that could well be on the horizon. I don’t drink, since Christmas 2016 I have only drank on one occasion which was to celebrate cycling 320 miles across the Arizona Desert. I have ran over 2,500 miles and cycled over 4,500 miles so I guess you can say I am fit…. Mission complete.
So why am I still running and pushing myself. Why am I still putting my body through the stress and strain of running a marathon (or two in 7 days like in Nov 2017). That is a good question and one which I have been considering a lot this past few days. As many of you know, a very fit and healthy guy set off to run the London marathon in memory of his father. Sadly he did not make it to the finish line. He collapsed at the 22.5 mile mark and later passed away. If that can happen to someone who is a sub 3hr marathon runner, super fit and lead a very healthy lifestyle, it could happen to anyone. So why do I risk running a marathon and risk a similar fate, leaving my 2 and a half year old daughter without her dad? That original quest to get fitter for her, could potentially leave her without her dad. What is better, a dad who is unfit or a dad not there? easy one to answer.
Running is like a drug, I have heard it many times. You get that buzz from racing, not the same buzz as Bolt gets from running the Olympic 100m final but each time you line up with the masses and race 1mile, 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon or ultra, you get that buzz of competing, challenging yourself, beating yourself and the feeling when you cross that finish line is amazing. You have done it and got that medal around your neck. Minutes before that whilst trying your hardest to reach the finish you are hating yourself, you hate running, I am NEVER running again, its hell. Then once you have your medal and have made your way home, the buzz is waring off and you need more of it. You look for another race to top up that feeling.
Is running addictive – YES
Is running healthy – YES
Is running dangerous – Potentially
Will I be running today – Absolutely
Will I be marathon running in 5yrs time – Who knows.