Evolution not Revolution

‘I’m a runner!’  I had reached a point in my journey where I thought I could class myself as a runner.  Now, what I had also found out is that I am also very critical of my performance.  I am quick to judge what I do, and quick to be disappointed.  In the earlier parts of my story I described that feeling when I realised a good first run had been a fluke and I had needed to go back before going forward.  I soon experienced that feeling again.

“I HADN’T REALLY CONSIDERED MYSELF COMPETITIVE”

runner legs

Once I felt comfortable in my ability to run around in a circle for 2Km or so I soon started looking at the tracking apps and realised that I can compare my performance to others.  BIG MISTAKE!!!! I hadn’t realised how much seeing other peoples performances would affect me.  I hadn’t really considered myself competitive.  But there I was looking at course times and segment speeds of people I have never and probably will never know or meet, and feeling disappointed that my time was twice as long as theirs, or my speed was so far from theirs that surely I was doing something wrong.

COMPARING

Having spent time now connected to various groups on Facebook and reading other peoples updates, I can see I’m not the only one.  Lots of us compare ourselves and judge our abilities against others.  I think it’s human nature, its natural.  We do it with many aspects of our lives.  That didn’t make it any less impactful, I didn’t initially just shrug it off and think Meh!

“MUST DO BETTER”, “MUST TRY HARDER”

There was a period where my running was too affected by this idea of ‘must do better’, ‘must try harder’.  I would spend runs just trying to get faster splits around my local course on MapMyRun.  Or trying to top the leader board in any way I could – the most number of repeats was the easy one to achieve! In reflection, this was not the best use of my energy and running time.  My runs weren’t adding value, they weren’t helping me improve as a budding new runner.  I got stuck in this for a few weeks.  not really seeing my runs improve, having the odd niggle, and generally flogging myself and thinking this was the way to become a better runner.

“EVOLUTION NOT REVOLUTION”

So what changed me, what made me realise I needed to evolve.  What led me to the idea of ‘evolution not revolution’?

Sad to say it was an injury.  Nothing major, but I had been doing one of my normal Km loop runs (as ever trying harder than was sensible for such a newbie) and I felt a tweak in my right knee.  Just something little, nothing crippling and I finished the lap (another 0.5Km) and wrapped up my run at that.

INJURY

The next morning I felt as if my leg was going to fall off.  Now I live in a three story townhouse and waking up to a very sore knee was a shock when I realised how many stairs I needed to move up and down simply to get out the door to work!!  That day every time I put weight on my right leg and moved I was in pain.  Yet again my enthusiasm for running meant I was gutted.  ‘How was I going to run tonight with my knee hurting?’  The one thing that looking back on this moment seems stupid is I tried.  I was embarrassed to say I had injured my knee, even to my wife!

Im expecting that most of us realise that usually if there is a pain in a joint or limb, running is probably not a good idea – of course that should be the default thought, but no, not in this case.  That run was a short one!  1Km, gave in and hobbled in thinking I hope it’s just a small thing and I’ll sleep it off.

3 days later I was at the doctor, with him trying to pull my leg off!

My doctor diagnosed a bruised ACL.  Which I thought might be a disaster and in reality it was a couple of weekd away from running.

So what can you do when you can’t run?

SOFA INJURY

It seemed as though my life was suddenly full of a massive void.  Only a few weeks ago the idea of finding time to run would have been laughable, now I was thinking ‘What can I do with all this time?’  so I hit the internet and started reading about running.

What did I learn?  Well a lot and a lot of stuff that I didn’t understand and a lot of advice that was:

Hey you can try this or this or this and that, but you need to find out what works for you.

What does that mean?  Should I do what the writer is saying, or should I ‘find my own thing’?  how do I find my own thing?  And yes there is the idea of getting advice 1-2-1, speak to a personal trainer.  Nope, not enough confidence to do that, I’ll have to work this out.

When I felt OK to run again I started with 2 weeks of very gentle 2Km circles locally.  After which I thought, right time to move this on a level.

I found a route that had some decent incline and ran that down, turn and return back up.  I also started running where I broke out in a faster pace for some of it, then slower, then fast etc etc.  Still only 2Km most of the time.  I held back on the urge to push distance and speed, just doing mixtures of hills, and these pace intervals.  I then had read about long easy paced runs.  So tried once a week to do a run that little bit longer, not worrying about speed, but just running for longer.

FARTLEK

I was running about 4 times a week, 3 short but varied runs and 1 long run on a Sunday or Saturday morning.

I’m not sure if that made the difference, I guess people would say it did, but over time my times improved, my distance increased and I started to really feel I was improving, I was making progress.  Changing from just running around in circle after circle outside my house seemed to be the start of the next phase, I had evolved as a runner.

So I was back running after a short lay-off, I had used the time to identify I should mix things up, and I was getting the benefit.

Where do you go from here?  Time to book a race?  The idea was ridiculous, why would I put myself in front of the public to do something that I doubted I was very good at?

An hour later I was signed up for my first run!

new runner start line

Part – 1 The best version of me

Part – 2 Learning to Walk

Part -3 Evolution not Revolution

Part 4: First Run

Part – 5 Me and Mo Farah

Capital Crescent Trail, Washington DC

 

Running the Capital Crescent Trail, Washington DC May 2018

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I had the amazing pleasure of getting some time on the Capital Crescent Trail whilst in Washington DC for work in May 2018.  I was actually staying in Bethesda, and desperate to try running in as many places as i can i packed my toothbrush, laptop and half a ton of running stuff and jumped on a BA flight to Washington Dulles Airport.  Arriving at my hotel around 5pm (local time) i thought, time to try some running – of course it was 9pm UK time so normally a time i get out and run when at home.

I had researched running in the area before heading out to DC, i was staying in the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Bethesda so wanted a park or trail nearby.  I found the following website:

https://www.cctrail.org/

Take a look, it’s worth it if you ever find yourself in the area.

The trail is an amazingly well setup route, wide and well kept, suited for cycling, walking or running.  It is a little bit of the country in the middle of town.  whats also nice is as a tourist I fancied the idea of running to the White House, which sits just off the southern most part of the trail.

Below is a map of the trail.

Capital Crescent trail map

I ran between the two black diamonds on the above map.  following the blue trail line and then working my way from the end of the trail to the White House.

The cycle icons indicate bicycle stations with puncture repair points and air.  There are also some water stations to top up your bottle or just drink from.

Along the trail there is also the opportunity to spot some great wildlife.  I saw a whole host of amazing birds (which I am keen to watch) as well as deer.

When you get to the end of the trail it’s pretty simple to continue along the Potomac river side to The George Washington Memorial from there finding your way to the White House and other famous landmarks is a piece of cake.

My run was really enjoyable.  The trail is just so well kept it is a dream and fairly flat.  admittedly I din’t appreciate the distance and ran there and back and around The White House etc and completed about 40Km !  I was only thinking I’d be out for maybe 2 hours – Doh!!

The other thing to note is that the route is very popular and is used as a commuter route as well as for leisure.  So it can be busy.  But, there are lots of signs providing you with the etiquette expected of users, and I have to admit it was really well observed.  People running or cycling on the right, overtaking to the left, and announcing their approach.  So civilised and it made an enjoyable evening run even more enjoyable than expected.

I didn’t take pictures of the trail route – only just getting into the idea of really properly logging my runs, but a look through Google images throws up plenty.  Don’t expect just flat tarmac and kerbs either.  there’s a few changes in surface, running alongside treelined paths then a creek, and in Washington ending up at a beach volleyball court – who would’ve thought it!!

Anyway, for me.  I was out for about 4 hours, returning about 9PM local time, which was 1AM UK time, having traveled that day to say I was knackered was the understatement of the century.  However, me and my Brooks Ghost 10’s enjoyed the run massively, and if I get to go back to Bethesda/Washington I’ll be back on the trail without hesitation.

 

 

Learning to walk

person wearing black low top sneakers and black jeans

So I was ready, geared up and a 1Km circular footpath right outside my door.  What could be easier?  well that’s what I thought, gotta be pretty straight forward, I’ll not try too hard, 2 or 3 Km and that’ll do.

Well on my first day (around 20 June 2017) I stepped out full of absolute dread.  I am so far from being an exhibitionist, will hide if I can from any sign that I might be front and centre – so what the hell was I doing dressed like a twit in the middle of a housing estate frankly not having a clue.  I’m 40 years old, surely I know better than to be doing this?

To be honest, in many other situations like this I would have slunk back into my house, maybe made a coffee and grabbed a biscuit and pretended nothing happened.  Hoping nobody had seen my brief moment of madness.  that would be it, file that under ‘tried it and didn’t like it’ and then move on with life, slowly growing ever bigger and just accepting it.

silhouette photo of person holding door knob
Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

I can’t actually explain why I chose to close the door behind me and stride across the road to the footpath.  I guess i had some face to keep as I had bought the gear with my wife present and she too had decided to by a few bits so as to join me when she could – with kids this would mean taking it in turns but I knew what she meant.  So turning around would have seemed a bit of a quitter.

What’s the worst that could happen?  what actually would happen if somebody I knew saw me?  I did ponder this for a long time before I started and realised that to question 1 the answer could be ‘a painful death’ and to question 2 – well nothing, and hopefully they would see it as me trying to better myself and be encouraging.  That sounds reasonable and rational, doesn’t it?

So the phrase ‘sod it’ entered my head, my feet moved me to the footpath and that was it, I was going to start.

So what about the first time, well I ran most of the 1Km footpath circle unbroken.  stunned myself.  Slow as anything but who cares I had made a start.  I got back home slumped into a chair, drank a pint of water and thought, ‘well, I’m still alive, no heart attack.  I survived!’  Sadly my body was having a stern conversation with my brain asking it what the hell it thought it was doing making that happen, and asking it to promise never to make it happen again!

my body was having a stern conversation with my brainman couple people woman

I felt fine.  The world continued to turn.  my efforts hadn’t made a breaking news story on the national news and I wasn’t some hideous laughing stock of a viral YouTube campaign – it was fine.  I was fine.  It doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

Actually I loved it after.  I’m a scientist by education and understand the whole endorphin thing and the fact that exercise like other things can generate a natural high.  I felt that high (just a little one) but a high nonetheless.  A little flicker from the brain saying ‘not sure what just happened there but I kinda liked it.  Might like to do that again’.

So why is this part called ‘Learning to walk’?  Well I soon found out that run 1 was a fluke.  A gold coated, diamond encrusted fluke.  I went out a few more times in the next

rear view of a boy sitting on grassland
I felt gutted

week thinking I’ll trot out a few more Km’s, it’ll be great.  Well nope, next run I managed about 300m and thought I was going to die.  I felt gutted, but I walked for 100m or so and started running again.  a further 250m or so again I had to stop.  this carried on for 2Km.    Walk then run then walk …  this was a disaster, I can run 1Km solid how come I need to run and walk and can’t go more than a few hundred metres without stopping.  At this point after 2 or 3 runs like this I was a whisper from ebaying the running gear and pretending this never happened.  I thought I would try and find one of those mind wiping devices from the Men In Black movies.  I felt gutted.  I don’t like losing, I don’t like failing things – which is why I am so reluctant to try new things.  Failure feels embarrassing.

But this was far from failure.  I hit Google, searched for ‘How to start running’ and got some great ideas, but almost all said do walk and run.  Even to the point that you do very little running.  Then over time you do more running and less walking.

so that was it, I had to start by “learning to walk”

Once I accepted that this was OK I carried on trying, sometimes going out every day, just 15 minutes, walk, run, walk.  eventually walking reduced, running grew and after what was about 2-3 weeks I was running 2-3Km without walking.  I wasn’t burning up the footpath with any speed but I was moving, I was building a base, a foundation to grow from.  I could see that this could develop if I continued and worked at this.  I wasn’t sure what I did next though.  Do I just keep doing this round and around time and again for longer and longer?  What is too much?  How do I know what is too fast?  How hard should I try to run?  So many questions and no real idea where to find the answers.  Well obviously I knew Google knows everything 😉 but there’s 1.2Million different answers to most questions, so knowing the best one is impossible.   I decided to work things out for myself.

Part – 1 The best version of me

Part – 2 Learning to Walk

Part -3 Evolution not Revolution

Part 4: First Run

Part – 5 Me and Mo Farah

‘The best version of me’

I’m not a naturally confident person.  I am my biggest doubter and my biggest critic.  Ask my colleagues they would probably disagree, but I come across confident when around people I’ve developed a level of comfort with.  Put me in with a group of new people and I find things really hard.  I’m not boisterous or outgoing, I’m never the center of a conversation or the driving force behind a meeting.  I doubt my own opinions, my value and the person that I am.  I don’t really like how i look, I’ve always been bigger than I should be, and I’ve always been too conscious of other peoples opinions to do anything about it.  Which is odd, whilst I expect people would judge me for how I look, I thought people would judge me for trying to do something about it.  Why?  I don’t know.  People are strange things, complex, reliably unpredictable and don’t conform to a standard.

But that’s what I thought.  That was what was in my head.  It just was.  I had settled on always being this self doubting, unimpressive looking person since secondary school.  Change seemed unlikely.

So June 2017 arrives.  I’m still that person.  I’m married (for the second time) and have four children – all amazing individuals that I’m incredibly  proud of.  The youngest being only 3 months old at this point.  Something just switches in my head.  I cannot pinpoint the exact thing, the exact moment or trigger.  There were a group of things that conspired to make me feel, this is the moment, if not now it won’t happen.  Let me explain …

In December 2016 we moved to a new house.  A nice new build.  easy to look after, good location for work, schools etc, that whole family life thing.  I love the new house and very happy with the location.  It might be classed as the countries most ‘normal’ place (Didcot) but I like it.  My choice.  We are also located on the edge of a sports field (Boundary Park) and our front door pretty much opens up onto the footpath around the edge of it. (the picture is an aerial view of Boundary Park)

In January 2017 I turned 40.  I never believed in that idea that you hit 40 and you have that ‘epiphany’, that need to go and change your life.  Why should I.  40 is just 39 + 1, it’s doubley as good as 20.  It’s a number.  But it did fire a little rocket in my mind, it made me reflect, made me think ‘is this the best version of me’?

That paired with the fact that I noticed the old waistline creeping up made me decide if I don’t do it now I may never take the plunge.

So late June 2017 I rolled into a New Balance factory outlet, bought a cheap pair of trainers, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt (all in large size) and took them home. That was the start of the journey …

Part – 1 The best version of me

Part – 2 Learning to Walk

Part -3 Evolution not Revolution

Part 4: First Run

Part – 5 Me and Mo Farah

Nick 26 June 2018

Post weekend downs

Its Tuesday morning.  I’ve not run since Sunday morning. Something feels weird. I’m not sure at what point I got to the stage where not running for 48 hours felt wrong. Where running 47Km at a weeekend wouldn’t seem to be enough for a lifetime, and where the dull ache in my thighs Monday wasn’t enough to tell me to just sit and watch the World Cup for the next 3 weeks.

Things have changed.

Things are different.

… in a good way, I think.

I guess this shows that I’ve got a new hunger to do something new. A feeling of wanting to achieve something different. Why that means not running for 48 hours is like a bereavement I don’t know. It just, well is !

A year ago a weekend was busy, kids, family, trips and well work too at times 😦  but then the urge to run rose in me  I’ll write a bit more on that back story somewhere else.

 

looking back I never expected a year later to have run a half marathon, run and actually win a 10K trail run and have 4 more half or full marathons booked 😮

The other day the absurd hit too  why don’t I run an ultra marathon.  Well that might just be a story for another day.

so back to point.  It’s Tuesday and my feet want to run.  Sadly I’m on a train to london to work so that’s not happening soon.  Work is busy so it won’t happen during the day.  Besides I don’t have my kit , and the days of running around in pants and vest when you forget your PE kit at primary school might just be over for me!  Not sure the nice folk of White City W12 would like that either 🤭

sonill manage to make this evening and do some then  I’m using a training plan now for Windsor half one september it’s one mapMyRun and the next workout (technically for tomorrow) is tempo runs.

Lets see how we go

I love running and the buzz it gives, partly because the gaps in between are filled with the excitement of the last run and the anticipation of getting back out.

RR

@runhappy #runhappy