What a difference light made

Well, following on from my previous post I did make it out an ran 7.25 miles.
I had intended for more, but for a variety of reasons I decided it best to head back.
I’d also miss the first episode of the new series of Top Gear…

So, as I sat in my bedroom watching the sky gradually darken, I was preparing for the evenings exploits. Taking a pack with extra clothing and a variety of head torches, I would make this worth its while. Driving through the quiet streets, it felt exciting knowing how many would be sat inside, avoiding the all consuming darkness.

Parked up, I made my way into the woodland of Woburn Sands, with head torch light beaming through the dense woodland. Eyes of deer reflected back, and the lamp picked reflective strips of bike pedals that had fallen off on rides. Yet, I wasn’t relaxed. It had been sometime since I had moved at night and relaxing with the associated sounds took some time.

When I saw head torches in the distance, I double checked how many were in front and took a side trail, not sure of what lay ahead. A couple of minutes later, I was confronted by a dog, stood silently infant of me, teeth bearing. I froze. The owner was calling, but he/she was not responding. I feared that if i carried on running I ran the risk of provoking a reaction. When it finally began to retreat, I slowly walked off, before checking my shoulder and bolting.

I was now aware of my surroundings.

The next hour consisted of hill repeats (we don’t really have them around here), testing torches for each mile and a half. It was a joyous experience, and I only stopped when I had completed my task.

Heading back to the car I was satisfied.

It is incredible what a change of time of day and light conditions can have on your mind. Though things felt initially more hostile, I felt relaxed. It’s pretty amazing how the mind works.

The anxiety may have reduced, but for what real reason? After everything was the same bar the amount of people, and if anything people were never going to care, given I would be running past them.

Running distance is as much mental as physical.
This can be adopted into most things in life.

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Defeated by the Light

Many often associate running as being a great healer, a past time that can help over come mental instabilities. But what if it is these very instabilities that inhibit running itself?

Well today, I was unable to run (and not for the first time).

But this wasn’t due to physical illness, not having time or not having what I needed. This was because my brain said no.

I like to run; I’ve run marathons, ultra marathons, mountain marathons. I like to run. But I normally run before first light and after dark. No I’m not a vampire or a night stalker, I just don’t like being seen.

I have suffered from a multitude of mental health conditions, be it depression, anxiety, hyper vigilance. From a childhood of abuse by a parent, it has nurtured the way I interact with people. I still struggle to look people in the eye, even my work colleagues and I find large social gatherings too much. Too many people and my brain literally hits its safety switch and I fall asleep.

So as I drove today to my local trail, I was upbeat and looking forward to putting in a solid 10-15 miles in the mud. But when I arrived, the car parks were full of people. Now this may sound silly given car parks are made for cars and cars inherently carry people, but my brain wasn’t 100% happy. As I sat in the car, already dressed in my running gear, I started to feel physically sick and slightly faint.

The more I thought the worse it got, and rapidly I was talking myself out of it. I pondered my predicament. It’s a sunny day, it’s a beautiful area, get out and run.

But my mind was made up, I switched the engine back on and drove away.

Logically from the outside, you would think I would start to relax, but things just got worse. Now I felt like I have let myself and others down… however, how can I be letting anyone else down? Once again, my brain kicked it, with every thought the situation escalated, to the point when I was almost home I felt myself welling up.

I may have been defeated this time, but I will be back later today as the sun sets with a head torch. I was momentarily defeated, not entirely.

In time, I wil overcome this. Racing isn’t all that much better, as if I am not racing strong I feel useless. But with every race, I feel stronger, more socially astute.

Running is a healer of sorts, something to focus on, to embrace.

Getting those first steps in can often be the hardest part.

Running Super Highway

Correct me if I am wrong, but if any town or city should be granted the title Running Super Highway of Great Britain, I think you can’t look any where else other than Milton Keynes.

The new city made famous for roundabouts and concrete cows has a little secret to those that mock it.

Red Ways.

The Red Way network spans over 270km, and along with walking/running is an approved cycling path. But what is so special is these avoid the main road network.

Built around the MK blocks (housing or industrial) they allow users to bypass built up areas and roads a like. Furthermore when faced with a road, be it single or dual carriageway they address the issue of the pedestrian. Instead of having a traffic light or traffic island, they simply go under the road or bridge the gap.

This means you can run from my house in Newport Pagnell to my place of work in Knowlhill with only having to cross a road twice. That’s twice in 6 miles. Add to that the American styled block system, the route is very direct and simple, no meandering lanes or side streets.

Finally the paths are wide and maintained, so no tripping over broken flag stones.

I didn’t know what to make of Milton Keynes before I moved here, but for those looking to run on road, this is the ultimate destination for hassle free running. Throw in the parks and lakes, and runners have trail and scenic running on their doorstep.

Yes it may be efficient and lack the sole of other places, but I ask you when running, wouldn’t you rather be able to run impeded than dodge countless people and cars?

Utilitarian

Running is often the preserve of free time. A chance to unwind, relax and indulge in our favourite past time.

But can it be something more? Why can we utilise it for commuting?

I mean yes, you need a shower at work and pre planning, yet the benefits are clear.

– feeling fresh arriving at the office

– easier to get in training miles

– reduced travel costs

– self reliance

– greater free time

Yes it may not be practical for all. You may get soaked leaving the house. You’ll need to dry clothes at work.

However not being sat in traffic or squished into a train carriage are reasons enough for me!

Rinning is more than a hobby.

It’s a lifestyle.

But Baby it’s cold outside

Annoying Christmas lyric, but a common excuse lurking in the minds of runners in the Northern Hemisphere as we speak.

Temperatures are around zero (London), winds are up and rain showers are forecast. What does it add up to? Well in truth misery. That is until you see the positives.

Winter is the time of year we wrap up in down jackets, eat, eat some more, watch telly and eat some more just to make sure we don’t suffer the cold. But it is also our time for building firm foundations.

With most peoples key races falling between April and September, this is a key period of the year. Wether you are in the gym or braving the elements, this is all contributing to your race later on in the year.

It can be the difference between a dire race going well, or a PB on your big day.

Below are some easy steps to making what may seem daunting that bit easier;

Layer up.

Get yourself a thermal layer, a water proof, an athletic cut good quality base layer and cover for your extremities. It is amazing what clothing manufactures can do with synthetic yarns these days, so as well as looking dapper, you can feel your toes and fingers in a chilly winters run.

Plan.

Get everything you need set out, and if you want to make sure your clothing is warm in the morning, sleep with it or leave it on a radiator (just make sure it is turned on). You need to be starting slightly chilled as you leave the front door, or you’ll be sweating buckets and resent wearing so much.

Take a little time and it will make all the difference.

Nutrition.

Be prepared, yes this could easily fall into the above category. Have your meal prepped or already cooked. You will think you burnt way more calories than a summer run and feel the urge to feast. Prepare your food and you won’t feel the need to gorge yourself and put on pounds after pounding the streets.

Treat yourself.

Make sure your bath or shower is going to be free when you return and spend a little longer in it. Warm yourself up, you earnt it!

This is no way scientific, nor will it promise the best results.

What it will do though is make it easier to stick to your training plan and enjoy it!

Are we all becoming Robots?

I couldn’t decide whether to run or not. Yes I had planned to run, was stood in my room like a glow worm waiting to release photons into a crisp nights sky. But my GPS watch wouldn’t connect with satellites…Is this what running has now got to? Stood around waiting for a small electronic gadget to determine the outcome of exercise.

I mean, after all, it’s my body that runs, my mind which controls it and my thoughts which accompany me and determine my choices. And yet as I paced impatiently, I was persuading myself not to run.

But, with a final glance a signal was secured and immediately it was on my wrist and I left the door.

Technology has its part to play in sport, but when it comes the overriding factor it is time to take a step back and reassess your motives.