I’m not talking here about questioning appropriate under garments for mountain trails (whole other post) but on the mental aspect of running.
“I like running a lot”.
Go figure. Probably one of the biggest understatements in my life. But so, paradoxically, is the following statement:
“Training is hard. Sometimes I question why I do this.”
These two sentiments I swing back and forth unbelievably regularly, and with more frequency the closer races crop up and training takes over.
Running for me isn’t defined so much by the sweaty gym sessions, the spiky HR readings and the sacrificing of social endeavours for a one-way dialogue with a podcast. Yet sadistically, not training would be a worse fate. So where us crazy long distance runners at then?
I can put a lot down to race day. The tying up of shoe laces and of all those loose ends of training. Also, the feeling after running of elation when you have burned a hard session. The long runs with friends and the sense of adventure. The strength you get as a woman, running mountains.
But it really isn’t easy. Getting home in the dark in the middle of winter because you still have to train after working a full day. Being constantly, constantly hungry during more intensive training. Sweaty hair. Hedge hair (came back from a recent rainy run to find my hair resembling a thatched cottage). The obsession of training plans. The often inexplicable feelings of failure when you don’t meet a target, and the frustrations of trying to articulate that to the majority who think you are insane anyway. How gross your feet can get. How gross an avulsion fracture can feel.
Sometimes feeling a bit, frankly, pants, because you are tired and just because your training is done tonight, doesn’t mean you get out of it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or next week.
Yet - I choose this!
I am my own conundrum, but I am not the only one, as my good friend and running mate Nikki will tell you. We’ve been through a lot and seen quite a few running highs and lows, from injury to lack of motivation, to gearing up for mega-miles, and this concept of ‘what are we doing’ is certainly one we pull apart.
Que, the Barnard:
I suppose the question that burns brightly slap bang in the middle of each training cycle we take on - is why do we do it? A tricky question to answer at times, particularly when you've just smashed out 30km in -14 degrees at a near-crippling pace, and come home to find that someone ate your last tin of baked beans!
Well, why do we do it? I suppose one of the reasons why I choose to be a runner - is because it is all on you. There is little to hide behind when it comes to running. It's very much about the decisions that you make, and the process of understanding your body and how it works. What's most interesting are those moments where you go from body to mind, back to body, back to mind. Testing how far you can push both - and how you handle yourself, through those moments of meditative style running as well as through the incredibly tough, painful and proper Type-2 fun moments.
I guess its different for everyone, but long mega days in the mountains - rain or shine, with your mates, or maybe a little Justin Timberlake (Milly: and Jay-Z) on your iPod. It's all fuelled by love and appreciation for fun & that there is magic and adventure to be had. You simply need to get up and go find it!
So more and more as the weather warms, the snow thaws and the excitement for summer begins, we'll be getting out there trying to find that very magic again. However hard it sometimes gets, Nikki and I hold each other to that.
This weekend I will be immersing myself in the fun of the run, the sea air on the South Downs (I've heard rumours of snow, amazing) and racing as part of training for this great cause
Whatever crazy hobby or love you have - sometimes it does not always feel what it is cracked up to be. Sometimes it is frankly, nails. But you have to work hard for the best things sometimes.
So I guess all that is left to say is: embrace the pants.
If you are keen to bag some memorable summer running days, Nikki is co-founder of The Adventure Trail Running Company
Thanks to trail friends for photos