I've had a virus in my ear for the past fortnight. Usually, I'd let time do its thing, but we're flying to Ireland in a few days and having flown with ear infections before I didn't fancy it much, so I went to see a healer friend who did his thing and then turned to me with an evil grin and said you won't like what I'm going to say.
Rest? I hazarded.
Yup. And athletes are always THE WORST people to treat because they WON'T STOP. If you run with a virus it'll just take longer to get better.
Needless to say I ran the Parkrun two days later (putting in my best time yet, incidentally) but I have tried to heed his advice and be good this week and slow down a bit. By this morning though I was Utterly Fed Up With Being Good (and feeling tired as a result) so I threw caution to the wind, hooked the dogs up to their running leads, put on my running shoes and set off down the lane.
It is a beautiful day here: bright sunshine, sharp, cool, clear, although it was a bit murky first thing. I am training for a 10k (6 miles) at the end of December and have given myself 13 weeks to move up from regular 5ks to that distance. However, last week I was feeling good and did an 8k which went well, so this morning I decided I'd run slowly and see if I could push the distance a bit more and do the 10k.
The long and short of it is I did, and I wasn't tired when I finished and I'm not aching now. I'm really chuffed. The sense of achievement and of proving to yourself you can do something is second to none. The natural high has been somewhat enhanced by the knowledge I've burnt off the glass of red, chocolate bar and piece of cake I ate last night too :o)
All this got me thinking about my friend's exasperation over athletes' reluctance to rest for prolonged periods. M knows someone who does triathlons at World level for his age (in his 60s). He was at the World Championships a few years ago defending his title and afterwards when M caught up with him to ask how it had gone, the friend said Oh, I had a stomach bug that morning. M assumed he hadn't raced, and then the friend added So I only came in third.
I have noted with friends who are ultra-endurance runners that the thing that gets them round a 50 or 100 mile run isn't so much the fitness (although of course that counts) as their mental strength and the ability to focus with undistracted 100% attention on completing the race and accomplishing their goal. The reason I took another 10 seconds off my Parkrun PB last weekend was largely because M told me beforehand he thought I'd only be able to do it in 2-3 second increments from now on. Well I wasn't having that! I don't think any of us should let someone else define our limits for us. There's a lot to be said for telling yourself you can do something, not messing about and just getting on and doing it (or trying, because if you try and don't manage it that's still better than not trying at all).
Where I got to with it was this: athletes have a mindset of determination to carry on regardless, and it is this, essentially, which marks the difference between achieving your goals and not. Some might call it stubbornness, and my friend certainly thinks its foolhardy, but the reality is, if I had heeded his advice completely, I would not have shaved a few more seconds off my PB at last weekend's Parkrun, and I would not have achieved my goal of running 6 miles this morning, ten weeks ahead of schedule. Both these things gave me such a buzz and a very real sense of achievement that I suspect the mental benefits have had as much of a positive effect on my immunity and bug-fighting ability as rest would have done. Food for thought.
Ted would like me to tell you all that he and Poppy ran the 6 miles with me and they don't know what all the fuss is about. He'd also like to say that he narrowly escaped having to do a celebratory dance in the kitchen to Seal's Crazy, which is on my Ipod running playlist, unlike Poppy who made the mistake of not escaping into the garden when the opportunity offered as the first bar started, and was scooped up and bopped about with until she felt dizzy.
They are both snoozing now in a patch of sunlight on the carpet.
Hope all are well? I'm off to catch up on your excellent blogs :o)