I don’t particularly enjoy running, and that is the reason I do it. Let me try and explain myself better. I find running difficult, and this is what drives me to keep running, as I am convinced that the more I run the easier it will get. And to some extent that has worked out to be true, but not completely. Read on to find out the things I have learned about running.
A year ago I began running fairly regularly, a couple of times a week, and I remember that all I was thinking about during those first times was how much I hated running, how much I wanted to stop, how my breathing seemed all wrong, how I could hardly lift my feet off the pavement. I set myself a goal of always running 5k and 95% of the time I managed to complete it, however much my mind was telling me to stop and walk. This consistency certainly helped me to improve (getting my time down from 35 minutes to about 28 minutes) and with time I found that I was no longer always thinking about what I was doing and was actually listening to the music on my running playlist. I am at the stage where I could really enjoy a medium-paced run, enjoy the landscape, the music in my headphones, think about my life, make plans for the weekend, but I don’t. The problem is that the more I improve, the more demanding I become on myself and the faster I wanted my 1 kilometre splits to become. And so I am always pushing myself and never really allowing myself to fully enjoy my runs. I think this is something I should work on, as I don’t want to become a really good runner (I want to focus my efforts on tennis!) and I have already reached the objective I set out to achieve. Perhaps now that I have competed in my first 5k run I can go back and start to really enjoy running.
My first 5k run
Today I ran my first 5k “race”. It wasn’t an official race, but was instead a “runday” initiative by Decathlon Italia to get people running together. When I registered for the runday a few weeks ago I was convinced that this would be an incentive to go running a bit more often and try and improve my pace. But funnily enough the exact opposite happened. From the moment I registered I did not go for one single run! Going for a run suddenly felt like revising for exams: something I didn’t want to do but had to. I did have good intentions to go running and I took my running kit on two recent trips, one to Ljubljana and another to London. I would have run in the gym in Ljubljana but the running machine was broken. And in London I just didn’t feel like it, especially after walking 15 kms a day for 3 days. So I turned up for the run today without any particular training, but in some ways that made me feel more relaxed.
I set off at a good pace and was pleased to be fairly close to the front. The fastest runners soon broke away, but I kept with the second group and my Apple Watch told me I was doing 1 km splits of about 5’15, which is faster than I usually manage. I liked the fact that I had other people around me but I will admit that I spent most of the race thinking about how fast I was going, whether I had already overtaken that person overtaking me, how much more there was to go, whether I would be able to keep up the pace etc. According to my watch I slowed down a bit during the 4th kilometre and then suddenly the race was over.
My watch says that it was only 4.23km and it took me 22.5 minutes. I don’t know whether my watch got the distance wrong, or it wasn’t really a 5km race. Either way, I was happy it was over and I hope that I have now got this internal competitiveness out of my system.
Things I have learned about running
So, apart from learning about how demanding I am on myself, there are a few things I have discovered during this past year about running:
- I have to make sure I haven’t eaten in the two hours before a run, otherwise I get terrible stitch.
- I get a beetroot red face regardless of how easy or difficult I found the run.
- Strengthening my core and leg muscles through body weight exercises (plank, burpees, jump squats, lunges etc.) really improved my form. I didn’t realise how important the core muscles were until I had developed them and suddenly I felt more like I was gliding when running rather than stomping from side to side. My strengthened legs also meant that I was more springy and I left more air between my feet and the pavement.
- What you are wearing can make a difference. I always ran in leggings, but I suffer the heat quite a lot and so when the hot Italian summer arrived I changed to shorts and I overheated a lot less. For the 5k run, I would have loved to have worn my new Nike gear but I knew that running in new shoes and clothes that I had never run in before was going to be a bad idea, so I stuck to my good old running leggings from Oysho and my Under Armour trainers.
- Be careful when running alone. I have made the mistake of running in the woods by myself listening to music on my headphones, and although thankfully nothing serious has happened to me, I have had some scary experiences which have made me realise that it is better to run in company or stick to the routes where there are plenty of other people and runners.
And finally, the last thing I have learned is that I should leave my Apple Watch at home next time I go for a run, and just try and enjoy running at the level that I have reached, as it really isn’t that bad considering where I started!
Why do you run? Let me know in the comments below.