The life of a runner, mother, radiopharmacist and vicar's wife – that's me!
I haven’t been able to run for a few weeks, well I’ve hardly run properly for about 2 months. Today was the first time I’ve been out in about 3 weeks and I loved it. It made me think about the reasons why I love running. I came up with this list of 10 things.
1. Me time
When I’m running it’s pretty much the only time that I get when I am totally on my own (well, provided I’m not actually running with somebody else – see later). Normally I have the kids around or worse, my work colleagues! There’s very little time or space to be on my own. It’s great to have your own space, your own time, your own thoughts for a small part of the day. I don’t run with music or podcasts that often so usually it is just me, my thoughts and my surroundings and I love that.
2. Clearing the head
I remember when I was doing my A-levels (OK quite a long time ago, I admit) and I used to run fairly competitively so would train quite a few times a week. Others would have their heads in a book revising for those important exams but I would be out running. I’m sure some people thought that I should be studying but for me it was brilliant because it gave my head time to assimilate and then clear all that stuff I’d been learning. I’m sure that I did better in the exams as a result.
I think your brain needs some down time to deal with all the stuff that you are doing in the day, it’s incredibly therapeutic. Really, you can’t think about all that much when you’re running (except about those mile splits – see later), especially if you are running faster, so it’s time for your brain to take a rest and your other muscles to get working.
3. Feeling fit
Nothing beats exercise for feeling good in yourself. When you are really fit it makes a massive difference to normal life. I’ve noticed how people who aren’t all that fit tend to struggle with normal activities such as going up the stairs, walking down the street, carrying the shopping home etc. but once you are fit you don’t even notice these things.
Your body also looks better when you are fit. You can be the same weight as somebody else but when you are fit then you carry that weigh a whole lot better. That gives you confidence too even if you aren’t the most beautiful specimen on the planet.
4. Stats and splits
This is a bit of a weird one but I really love the maths of running. I spend most of my run thinking about mile splits and then doing things like calculating how long it’s going to take me to get to the next mile or what my average pace will be if I run the next mile 10 seconds per mile faster. Weird, I know.
Today there was this guy ahead of me, I’d passed him going in the opposite direction and when I turned round, I wondered if I could catch up with him before I got back. When I started working out the difference in time between us, he was 1 min ahead of me. I was gaining about 5 seconds every minute on him so I worked out that it would take me 12 min to catch up with him but by then I was less than a mile from home so there was no way that I could catch him. Once I get tired, I can’t do the maths anymore but there is still the fun of coming home and looking at the split times and seeing how I did after the run and how it compared with my last run.
5. Running with others
Although I usually run on my own, I do like running with others. I love doing the speed sessions with other people. The camaraderie is great as is the support you get from others. You can get so much more out of yourself, and the session, when done with others. Maybe that’s partly my competitive instinct but it is also the support and the fun that makes the difference.
Doing longer runs with others is also great. You can really get to know somebody a whole lot better than if you just went out for a coffee with them. There are no embarrassing silences because you don’t expect somebody to chat the whole time you are running but you can still have some really interesting conversations. Also, other people know routes that you don’t know so you get to discover new places.
6. Discovering new places quickly
Nothing beats getting to know a new place like running round it (well maybe cycling is also pretty good). I’ve seen places that I would never normally have seen by simply going out for a run maybe when I’ve been away at a conference or on holiday. Recently, when I was in Birmingham, I ran along the canal and had the pleasure of seeing a heron on the side of the water. Sometimes I’ve gone back after a run and then dragged my family out for a walk along the same stretch, no doubt boring them with anecdotes from my earlier run.
7. Being in the countryside
I didn’t used to do much running off road but this year I’ve really started to discover the joy of running off road, on trails and even up hills. Admittedly you do need to have the right shoes for this or you might be slip sliding around a bit.
I turned round at one point during the Saunders Mountain Marathon and was blown away by the view (at another point I was very nearly simply blow away because it was so windy, but that’s another story). Of course you can get those views by going out for a walk but going for a 10 miles walk is going to take you the best part of a day but you can easily run that distance in less than two hours so you get to see more of the countryside in a reasonable time frame.
8. Completing a challenge
Whether it’s the challenge of completing a certain session or the challenge of completing a race, I love that feeling of achieving something. Sometimes I’ve felt a bit lethargic about going out to do a particular session wondering what the point was because I was so tired and drained from the day. Every time I’ve come back full of energy and enthusiasm.
I am ultra competitive so I love racing and then, pure joy, there are the stats to look at afterwards. Did I run faster than last time? Who did I beat? My mum even has an equation for working out how you did compared with the winner, which is a better way of working out how well you have run because the conditions (especially with cross country) can seriously affect your overall time. We are sad people!
I love pushing myself to my limits. I can’t really do that in a training session, something always holds me back even if I feel like I’m putting in the effort but in a race you just throw everything down and go for it and I love that feeling. It’s all the better if you are actually running well when there is a certain freedom that is difficult to describe – when you feel invincible.
I particularly like being part of a team when I’m racing. Relays are my absolute favourite. There is something special about being part of a team, even if your team isn’t actually all that good. It isn’t actually about the winning (although I love winning too) but just being part of something.
I try to eat fairly healthily as nutrition is vital for general wellbeing and running fitness. I think that if I didn’t run then I might well be overweight because I do like my cakes. At least you know that you are going to burn off those calories when you run so generally I can enjoy my food all the more with the knowledge that it is unlikely to cause my girth to expand and will fuel my long runs.
So those are some of the reasons that I run and some of the things I love about running. I get a bit frustrated when I can’t run and I don’t like that feeling of being unfit so it’s been a tough couple of months. I’m hoping that the next 8 weeks before the Nottingham marathon will be weeks where I can train properly and not be hampered by feeling unwell.
I’m going to be running for the Royal Liverpool Hospital Charity which was set up to buy specialist equipment for the new hospital. I work in radiopharmacy and we really need some of this equipment so that we can make new radoopharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat cancer. If you would like to support my efforts then please follow this link. Thanks.