One of the things I love most about running is that apart from the physical, it also has deep physiological connections and connotations.
Everyone who runs has their own personal story and if you talk to a fellow runner about theirs there will undoubtedly be similarities that bonds us all together, but you will also quickly realise that everyone is on their own journey…and if that isn’t a 5p analogy for life, I don’t know what is.
Running helps you deal with real life shit, in my opinion, because it helps you de-compartmentalise the tough bits and the easy bits. You know there will be both. They both pass.
I’ve been having a love hate relationship with running recently. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I find myself slumping after finishing a race, not literally on the course (well that too) but in the weeks and months after. I completed the Rome Half Marathon at the start of March (officially the worst half marathon in the world…21kms of straight motorway, up hill somewhere approximately near Rome) and without having another race booked in the calendar to keep up the momentum of training I fell into a trap of casual 5kms here and there to check a box….something needed to change.
Things did change. 4 things all together. Not all of them good.
The first thing I decided I needed to get my mojo back was pretty obvious. I needed something to train for. After the disappointment of Rome (when in reality I should have gone to Paris the Week after) I looked at the BTG calendar for the remainder of the year and settled on Copenhagen Half , in the middle of September. Plenty of time to train (hard) for a super quick PB (Can I break 1:45 on a flat, fast course?) and a great opportunity to meet and strengthen connections with the global BTG fam…and party with them during one of the last weekends of the season. Easy choice…the excitement started to build already, I went out the next day and crushed my fastest, longest run since Rome.
So now a goal, but what about a plan? For me running is best when experienced with others. I do enjoy solitary runs where I can turn up the music and turn down my thoughts and stress, but if I want to commit to training and push myself I need the motivation and companionship of others. So I set up a series of weekly meets (not quite a crew…yet) with some good friends who like to run. Weekday track sessions, weekend long runs. Speed and endurance in the sun. A summer of good vibes with good people doing something we all love. Short shorts, guns out, sunglasses on and coffee breaks thrown in too. All the coffee. All the time.
All of the above would have been enough to keep me happy and fit over the summer. A goal and a plan. Again another life lesson that running teaches you…see the final frame of a scene, and then work out the script.
And then came the news that I’ve been waiting to hear for the last 4 years…even before I really gave too much of a shit about running.
Once a year the company I work for sends a team to the Hood 2 Coast relay race in Oregon, US. The day after signing up for the Copenhagen Half I received an email…”Chris, you have been selected…” BANG that’s all I needed to read…
I’ll be fully documenting the summer that leads up to my Hood 2 Coast experience, but this isn’t that story…
In parallel to all of the above, I also decided that as Running and I weren’t necessarily best buds at the moment that it gave me a free pass to try throwing myself into a new sport and to try and get a little stronger…which, I reasoned, would help increase my chances of smashing a PB in Copenhagen.
That sport was Bouldering. Starting back at the end of March I quickly fell in love with climbing. It’s one of those sports that get’s you fit, super quick, without you really noticing you’ve put that much effort in. There’s many parallels with running too, it can be a social bonfire for you to gather around, and it can also be a personal quest to conquer something (a time, a distance, a tough overhang or heel hook) that quickly develops into obsession.
It’s also the addiction of progression that pushes you on…you see the difference, you feel the increase in skill. And just like running that vanity can cause you to push yourself too hard too quick before you’ve built up the strength to cope. And that’s what happened to me. During a particularly good climbing session one Friday night after work I pushed myself to solve a few ‘problems’ too many and I felt it go…my left abdomen muscles ruptured.
I spent a weekend oscillating being trying to pretend it didn’t hurt to convincing myself I had a rare form of herniated stomach cancer (internet self diagnosis). Monday came, as did a trip to the Dr, and so did the news….2 weeks off sport, but go see a Physio. Wednesday came, as did the Physio, and so did the news…4-6 weeks absolutely no exercise or “it will rip again” (Dutch bedside manner wassup).
It’s been two weeks now and my mental state is at an all time low. I can feel myself getting slow and wobbly, but I’m eating terribly to fill a void. I know any progress I made climbing has been lost and a whole lot of strength needs to be built back up.
I know that I’ll have lost 12 speed sessions and 6 long runs.
I know that PB is that much further away and I know it’s gonna hurt when I can finally hit the pavement and the wall again.
But, I also know that Running helps you deal with real life shit. The tough bits. The easy bits.
They both pass.