Sometimes training can feel such a drag. The pressure you feel to stick to a programme. Going through periods of low motivation. Feeling guilty when you miss a run, or worried after missing sessions through illness or injury. My own running journey has been through all of these and more over the past couple of years and I am sure I will continue to experience these as long as I run.
But the past seven days has, for me, seen some real training highs and I think it is important to reflect on these days as well as the tough days. I know that I spend way too much time focusing on the negatives at times. Did I run far enough? Did I run fast enough? Did I do enough mileage in the week? And on and on and on. Which is why this week I want to talk about when things do go well.
Firstly, as I mentioned last week, I have signed up to another race – the Men’s 10k in Edinburgh at the start of November – so that always gives a focus to my training. The simple fact that I have another target to aim for definitely helps my motivation. Secondly, I decided that I wanted to do a long run (for me a long run is something beyond 10k). And finally, I had a few days on holiday and managed to fit in a run in the amazing Italian city of Venice.
But returning to the long run, this was definitely such a boost. I set out to run a route I have done before, from my house down to the beach in Aberdeen and then back home. This would be roughly ten miles or so on a course that is essentially straight downhill, flat, then uphill for the end (as flipping always!!).
The run down to the beach was into the wind so this was a tough start, but combined with the downhill nature of the run this was ok, though the flat section along the beachfront was direct wind against and was hard going. As always seems to be the case in Aberdeen as soon as I turned, the wind seemed to drop completely, so the run back felt like there was barely a breath of wind at all.
While the return route was uphill, I often feel these days that I get stronger the longer the run is, which, I guess, is due to my endurance training and build up of fitness levels over time. It does show me that the longer you keep doing something the easier it will become. Again, this is another positive sign of things improving over time – like the twenty-mile run in Madrid a few weeks ago – and something else I think all runners need to remember. Never forget how difficult something was to achieve when you then view it as routine months later. I think this is something that is easy to ignore as you focus on the immediate goal or the situation you are in at that precise moment. Look back at your achievements. Look back on the good – and the bad – runs. Reflect. Then move on to the next goal.
I also received another boost when I got home when I received the medal from a recent virtual race to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Research as part of the @racecheck visorclub campaign. I did a 10k run where I attempted to stick to a set pace all the way round as the campaign is dedicated to a member of the visorclub who is currently battling cancer. This is a reminder that no matter how tough things may be for you, never forget there are others who are enduring their own battles. My running is just for fun – an enjoyable hobby – and not something to be taken too seriously in the grand scheme of things.
After this boost, I then went off to Venice for a few days holiday. I was unsure whether I would manage to fit in a run while I was there, but I packed my stuff anyway – another sign of a difference in attitude. A couple of years ago, I would never have done something like this on the off-chance of a run, particularly if the hotel did not have a gym. But pack I did, and what a treat it was.
Venice is a small city, with lots of little streets and alleyways which are routinely packed with visitors, so the only chance to attempt a run without the crowds was first thing in the morning. I went out shortly after seven so was then privileged to watch the sun come up over the historic sights of St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs, among others. There is a long walking area at the waterfront where the crowds were quite thin at that time of the day, and this was clearly where everyone in Venice runs. For anyone doing the Venice marathon this weekend, have an epic race. My little taste of running there was fabulous and I would love to return, though I imagine the marathon route is not all run in the city itself.
The weather was great, with temperatures in the mid-teens at that time of the day, but as I returned home it was a bit of a shock the system to see the temperatures plummet down in the UK and squally showers blowing through on a strong northerly wind. To be fair, we have had an excellent few months of weather so I just need to get used to running in these conditions again.
Next week I will be working over in Dublin for a few days so I need to work out my last-minute training ahead of the race. My enthusiasm for running remains high, with a race to focus on, and also a reminder of how far I have come, when a ten-mile run can feel like a breeze and going away on holiday or for work is viewed as an opportunity to run in a new place and explore exciting routes. And I never got lost once!!