It was 9.57pm on a freezing cold Saturday night when I stopped the watch, having just completed 17.12 grim, miserable miles (that .12 makes all the difference).
I called into the corner shop at the end of our road to pick up some milk cos we’d run out. You know, like the professionals do. I believe Mo Farah rarely gets home from a training run without a bag of bagels in his hand.
I walked slowly home, I reflected on what was probably the least enjoyable run I’d ever done.
Not even a Spotify 80s playlist could lift me. Try as they might, Martika, Toto and A-ha all fell short of the mark. I plodded up boring, well-lit main roads so as to avoid becoming the subject of a Crimewatch recreation.
Like lots of people, I have young kids. I’m also fortunate enough to have a decent job that I enjoy, but which is also pretty demanding during the week. So getting my big run in is usually an early morning thing. I get up at a daft time, get it done, and if things go to plan, I get home handy to begin the weekend with the family.
And start the constant eating, obviously. Because running long distances is basically my excuse to eat like a farmyard animal.
On this occasion, a bad night with a poorly 1 year-old meant that when my alarm went off at 5.45am, the temptation to silence it and drift back off to sleep overcame me with consummate ease.
That left me with two pretty unpalatable options - no run (what?) or an evening run on a dark and chilly Saturday night. I’m not one to let my training plan slip easily, so Saturday night it was.
Needless pre-run procrastination is something of specialism of mine. I took an impressive 30+ minutes to just leave the house. Pratting about with earphones, digging out a couple of gels, adding a layer, removing the layer, putting a different coloured t-shirt on that you won’t see under my jacket anyway. That sort of thing is standard practice on a good day, nevermind when it’s colder than the other side of a polar bear’s pillow.
One thing that I do find helpful to get out the door is banging on about it on Instagram. It’s like a psychological commitment to a bunch of people, some of whom you’ve never even met. You can’t whack an Insta story up about your big run, then come crawling back early, or worse still, not go in the first place. What would the internet think?
When I got home I felt a massive sense of relief, a bit of pride and a strong reminder that so much of running long distances is mental. I love running, but was that how I really wanted to spend my Saturday night? Nah. But dragging yourself out when you least fancy it is a measure of commitment that probably shouldn’t be taken for granted.
If I was to offer advice (which you haven’t asked for, and I’m wholly unqualified to do) I’d say this:
- If you can get out in the worst conditions, when it’s dark, cold, wet or whenever you least feel like it, you can get out anytime - use that as the psychological benchmark for what you’re capable of.
- Tell as many people as you can what you’re going to do. Bore mates, bang on about it on social media, acknowledge people reacting - let them be impressed, tell you you’re mad, give you all the reasons why they could never do it, cos they’re not superhuman like (they think) you are. It’ll give you a bit of a pressure and a push to start, and make you feel extra good when you finish.
- Finally, when it comes to running 17.12 miles, remember that the first 16 miles are all in your head.