Monday, 26 September 2016

Competition: Focus: Achievement: Feel Better.


I grew up competing at the weekends with horses. Not to any great level or a particularly high standard, just local stuff, but it was enough to get the adrenaline pumping and to foster in me a life-long love of taking part in competitions, and all that goes with it.

There is something intrinsically good for you in setting a goal to work towards, in having a focus, in seeing yourself improve, and in learning to dig deep and push yourself on when all you want to do is stop, particularly when sensible people are safely tucked up indoors warm, dry and well fed and you are cold, wet, tired and hungry. Under those circumstances, the regaining of the warmth and the dry and the eating of the food when it comes feels a thousand times better than if you'd never got cold and wet and hungry in the first place.

I stopped riding and competing a few years ago. I've spent the last ten supporting M at various marathons, most of them off road and hard-core, (what he calls lumpy or gnarly). Think the Grizzly in Devon, the Bob Graham Round in the Lakes (less a marathon, more a feat of endurance), a 60 mile race in the South East, the Clarendon here in our own back yard, the Jungfrau in Switzerland, the Exe to the Axe in Devon, The New Forest Marathon. He trains hard, he runs hard, and he achieves.

He tells our boys the story of how, at school, he was the last to be picked for all the sports every time, and so grew up convinced he was rubbish at them. It was only in his twenties that he discovered running, then as a means of getting fit for rowing at Cambridge. The rowing faded over time but the running remained.
His best time for the London marathon is 2:45 hours, and he generally completes the more lumpy gnarly off road marathons in a little over 3 hours. If he isn't in the top 3-20 of the racers I know something has gone wrong.
He is modest about his achievements, but I tell the boys that, were their Dad to race against those lads now who, forty years ago thought he was too rubbish to have in their teams, I suspect the shoe would be very much on the other foot. It's been a very useful tale at various points of our boys' school careers, because neither of them are sporty and if you are a school boy who isn't sporty life can be not a great barrel of laughs at PE time.

Back to now, and every single time we go to one of these events I experience the same pang of regret and envy that it isn't me competing any more. I thought it would fade, but it hasn't.

In the past fortnight three things have happened. 1) I met up with old friends I haven't seen for twenty years and learnt that one of them is currently representing GB in Triathlons (despite having five children and a yard full of goodness knows how many horses to look after). 2) My friend Mrs Ibbot ran in her first 10k (6 mile) race, in memory of her mum. Despite only having started running about six weeks ago she finished in a flying time of 1:01. 3) Yesterday we went to Winchester, where the half marathon was in full flood through the city.

We stopped to cheer the lead runners as they came in, and then those further back as we walked back to the car. I could sense M's attention was fully on the race and knew he was thinking about where he would have come had he been running it. Then as we walked under Kingsgate, one of the runners pulled up declaring he was done in and couldn't run any further.
He was half a mile from the end, he'd run 12.5 miles in a little over two hours. The race marshal commiserated about running out of energy and ushered him over to the pavement where a lady in the crowd gave him a jelly baby. I was about to walk past when I found myself turning back. I'm a runner too, I heard myself telling him. Don't give up now, you're half a mile from the finish,. You can do it! You'll regret it so much if you stop now. You can just walk the last bit if you need to.  Half a mile? he said, looking up, chewing the jelly baby as the lady smiled at us, is that all? And he grinned and trudged wearily off up the road while the crowd clapped and roared him on.

Something woke up in me then. I heard myself saying to M that I thought I'd like to enter the race next year. Really? said M. I'm thrilled! When we get home I'll find you a 10k to run as part of the training and if that goes well, we'll enter the Half together.

When we got home, he duly looked up 10k races as a step up from the 5k Park Runs I've been doing most Saturdays since the start of August, and entered us both for one at the tail end of December. He is way faster than me, but has said he will run the race by my side egging me on (it will be like the hare encouraging the tortoise). He does the same at the Park Runs and it has made a huge difference to my times, which have improved from over 28 mins to a new PB of 25.12. He's also going to work out a training programme for me.

It's funny how one simple decision like that changes everything. Normally, having run 5k  yesterday I wouldn't run again today, or if I did I'd just do a mile, but today I feel different: I have a competitive focus again, something to aim for. So I took the dogs out this morning on our 5k loop along the lanes and back through the fields. I had my GPS on and produced the best time for that route I've yet done. I felt sick at the end and a bit wobbly, but it soon went.

Six miles doesn't sound like much perhaps, but it's enough of a goal for me for this year. If it goes well I will be doubling it plus an extra mile to do the half marathon. I can already feel the thrill of excitement at the thought of having access to competitions again, and that framework of getting up and out in all weathers, which I (believe it or not) enjoy.

In the end the time of runs isn't as important as doing them, as being able to tell yourself you've done it. That alone is a good enough reason to get out there and start running. By the time you've added in the health benefits, the not needing to watch what you eat, the sweating out of toxins, the relaxation and stress-busting nature of it, the improved strength in your muscles, the camaraderie of being in a race (or Park Run) with others, the feeling of your lungs working properly and the wonderfully clear, clean sensation you get afterwards when you've showered and are warm and dry. Well, there's nothing like it, and even better it's free and only requires a decent pair of running shoes. All you need to do is start, like I did, running for a few minutes and walking for a few, then running again. Before you know it you've run half a mile without stopping, then a mile, then three, and then a Park Run is in your sights and you'll be off.

Have I convinced you yet? :o)

CT x



39 comments:

  1. My hat is off to you. As a child I ran the town, so fast in fact my mother couldn't catch me with a switch. Nowadays, I couldn't run 10 feet. I think if I could pick one thing for a bucket list, it would be to run again (back, knees, hip:(

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    1. That must be so frustrating for you. I get very grumpy if I can't do things.

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  2. What an inspiring post CT. I would have loved to see you egging that man on in Winchester to the finish. I will read with interest your progress and wish you well in your half marathon. Not sure I'm a running type of girl but walking , yes anyday. My next target is a 12 mile walk along the South coast path from Lulworth to Weymouth next month. That will be challenge enough for now! B x

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    1. The coastal path is beautiful and a twelve mile walk is an achievement in itself. Hope it goes well x

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  3. Great post! I love running. I'm lucky enough to live out in the sticks and have often jogged along a local farm track with a hare running in front of me (showing me how it's done!). I'm injured at the moment and can't run, very frustrating, though volunteering at my local parkrun keeps me in the swing of things. Good luck with your HM training!

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    1. Commiserations on your injury. M was off over a year a couple of years back and it was not an easy time for him. Really hope you heal up soon. Park run has to be right up there for best invention of recent years. Good on you for volunteering and thank you for the comment.

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  4. My lack of mobility these days leads me to just say 'if only' - but I do admire those who take part in such things. Getting involved in anything is what makes the world go round.

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    1. Absolutely. Having goals and working towards them is important on so many levels.

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  5. Flipping heck, this post is perfectly timed CT :-) You describe the sense of achievement so perfectly. There is, as you so eloquently put it, nothing quite like it. You have inspired me. I'm going to dig out my running shoes again. Thank you. (I'll let you know how I get on!). xx

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    1. Brilliant! I'm so pleased, Sam. We can encourage each other on! Xx

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  6. PS Sorry - I should also have said - Good on you! Go girl! xx

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  7. Well you haven't convinced me to run but I can't deny the benefit of exercise that pushes you just a little further than you want to go. The Precipitous Bank does it for me every time!

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    1. I expect you've got strong leg muscles after working on that bank of yours. Running would be a doddle after that :o)

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  8. Six miles is amazing! Keep going, Mr CT is blooming brilliant too. You know you have convinced me - in theory. :) I keep having a week on/ a week off. xxx

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  9. I'm convinced that you're going to do a great job in the race and in all the following races. I'll have to stick to walking though. Good for you, in both senses of the phrase. x

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    1. I hope so Karen - I shall just be pleased to finish it! :o) xx

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  10. Well done, it's amazing how that chance encounter has inspired you. We will all be egging you on. Sarah x

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    1. Fate? It did feel like an important moment somehow xx

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  11. You are right, it is the keeping on that is important isn't it. Yesterday I saw the start of a run happening and thought of you and wondered if you were still doing your park runs! Must have been on the same wavelength. I hope that it goes really well for you and that you really enjoy it! xx

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    1. Definitely- the keeping on is what matters. Hope you're OK my dear. Will drop you a line xx

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  12. Good going! I'm not in Parkrun form at the moment, just coming back into it. Having done a "gnarly" marathon myself last year, I have no desire to do another! 5h12, thanks very much, no more!

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    1. I've just caught up with your last two posts. Your parkrun time is more than respectable for just coming back into it and I take my hat off to anyone who finishes a marathon, no matter the time. It's a massive achievement (5 hours is a good time though so you should be proud) :o).

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  13. Yes! You have indeed convinced me with this very inspirational post. I really needed a little push to start some regular running and this was it. Running shoes on. Thank you. And well done for encouraging jelly bean man, no doubt he felt fantastic after he's finished. CJ xx

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    1. Fantastic! I'm so pleased! I know you'll feel good for doing it. Wonder whether any of the boys would be interested in running a parkrun with you? Xx

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  14. Brilliant post CT. I've got a two mile loop that I have not run for years so tomorrow I'm going to lace up my running shoes and just do it. I think it is amazing to see how many of us you have inspired today, thank you!

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    1. That's great, Sarah! Once you've started keeping going becomes much easier so you go to it! X

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  15. Wow, this post is inspiring. I have been wondering about the couch to 5K thingy - slight problem is that I don't own a snazzy phone, but imagine you could somehow do it without. I have never been a runner - swimming, yoga and pilates are my go to exercises - is going on 52 too old to start? I'm very impressed anyway; you go girl! xx

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    1. That's fantastic! You could print out the programme, pin it on the fridge and follow it that way- it's what I'm going to do this morning for the 5k to 10k version. 51 definitely not too old to start. We have friends who'd never run a step in their life, started at 65 and now run half marathons. Just start with a minute of running then walk a minute, run another minute, walk another- you'll be amazed how quickly you improve and can drop some of the walks. Good luck and let me know how you get on xx

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  16. Finally I have time to enjoy blogland again. What a timely post to come in on - well done with your determination to start running competitively. I know you have the determination and get-up-and-go. I am on a personal challenge too, to lose weight and now I have a Fitbit, do 10,000 steps daily (it turns out I do most days around the house and vicinity without trying too hard). I could do with burning some extra calories, but with my asthma (and large bust!!) running is not easy!!

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    1. Good on you. Making your mind up to do something is such a powerful driving force isn't it? As for the bosomage, industrial sports bras are the way forward. Nothing moves in one of those! X

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  17. Great post. I look forward to reading all about your progress. I work out at the gym and swim regularly but have been over my ideal weight for some time now. Thursday before last I joined a local slimming group and have stuck to the regime 100%. I'm determined to shift the excess before 2017 and keep it off.
    Best

    Jean

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    1. Well done you- it's all about sticking to it, isn't it? Mental determination carries you through. Thanks, Jean x

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  18. Sometimes that is all you need, one small push on something you have been thinking about way down deep.
    Keep us informed on your progress. But you have the best trainers ever with Ted and Poppy.
    I have taken a small step health wise and am trying to get a grip on some major health problems.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. I do love running with them, although squirrels prove something of a troublesome distraction! All the best with your health things x

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  19. Tanya and Sara- thank you both for your comments yesterday. Stupidly, I pressed delete instead of publish! X

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  20. I'm loving your blog, especially Ted's diary entries :D Good for you with the running, I used to love running, but can't do it anymore, so I walk :D

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    1. Thanks Yarrow! I have passed your compliments on to Ted, who says you are obviously a very discerning reader :o). Walking is great exercise in itself, isn't it? And you see the land differently that way too. x

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x