As much as I hate to tempt fate, I have to say that lately I’ve been blessed with some great runs. I went through a phase immediately after my first parkrun (and first sub 30 minute 5k) where most of my runs felt a bit clumsy and awkward, and that lack of structure sapped my motivation and made every run a desperate fight to rekindle just a taste of my former glory. You’ll have to go along with me a little on this and for a minute try to forget the traditionally lofty connotations of the word “glory”, instead pretending that it can genuinely apply to someone huffing and puffing his way around a three(ish) mile route a tiny bit quicker than he’d done before and somehow not dying in the process. If it helps to validate things, I was wearing shimmering golden armour at the time, accompanied on every trudging step by a host of celestial winged toddlers playing magic harps. I wasn’t of course, but it would have been pretty damn glorious if I had, I think you’ll agree.
Where was I? Oh yes, so basically it was a case of Best Run Ever immediately followed by several that were a bit crappy. Luckily for me (and for you, if you don’t particularly enjoy hearing me bitch and moan), this series of crappy runs lasted just long enough for it to start bothering me, before giving way to a profound sense of “you know what? I’m actually doing alright at this, and it feels good”*. My runs began to develop more structure, so rather than just randomly heading out of the door and plodding aimlessly for however long I damn well felt like, I was instead aiming to ensure that every week contained at least one interval run to build up speed, one long run to build up distance and one run where I’d head out of the door and plod aimlessly for however long I damn well felt like. Because I’m me, and I crave a certain degree of aimlessness.
And it worked. In the four or so weeks since this gradually pervading epiphany I’ve seen my distance increase to 7.5 miles and I’ve nailed a sub-hour 10k. On top of that, I can’t seem to do a 5k lately without knocking at least a few seconds off my PB. Of course, it’s easier for me because I’ve got more seconds than most to begin with, which brings me neatly to my next point…
As I’ve already said I’ve been trying to build up more distance lately. For the majority of my long runs the inside of my head is happily populated with thoughts of “This is fun. Wheeeeeeeee!”, but for the times when a diversion is needed, a runner has several options. You can admire the scenery or listen to music or a podcast for example, and several minutes of any long run are typically spent devising cunning strategies for fending off cannibalistic doggers. The other popular tactic for whiling away the miles is to do maths. It’s exactly as exciting as it sounds, but when your mind is busy trying to work out the minutiae of each mile-split and comparing it to past performance and desired result, allowing for gradient and wind resistance, it does tend to distract you from the fact that your legs seem to have turned into some sort of fiery custard.
All well and good, except the problem is… I’m not very good at maths. At school, when all of my classmates were getting feverishly excited over protractors and set squares** I was drawing giant robots in the back of my exercise book and idly daydreaming that one day I’d be a mediocre runner who wrote a blog about his adventures that was enjoyed by literally dozen of people. So it came to pass that on my last few runs my rubbery grip on mathematics has led me to the following conclusions…
1. I am a better runner than anyone who has ever beaten me.
This one is just simple logic, folks. Example: In last weeks 5k Parkrun my official time was 28:13, whereas the winner was a chap called John who did it in 16:06. Now, while everyone was applauding him as if he were some kind of athlete they seem to have completely overlooked the fact that I was running for nearly twice as long as him. I got to 16:06 and then just kept on going! He didn’t! In my mind this makes me twice as good a runner as he is. Admittedly you could substitute the words “in my mind” for “in the mind of someone whose crackpot theories crumble to dust the very moment you apply the slightest hint of actual logic or common sense to them” but that’s never stopped me before, as you’ll see if you care to read on…
2. I’ll soon finish before I start.
At the moment I’m knocking loads of time off my 5k Personal Best every few weeks. My rational mind tells me that this is to be expected; A honeymoon period where my body adjusts to the demands of running and makes huge leaps in a relatively short space of time before reaching a point where novelty and momentum run out and I hit the plateau of competence, and thenceforth every second shaved from my PB will have to be earned gradually, in sweat, perseverance and patience.
My rational mind tells me that. But as you’ll know by now, my rational mind doesn’t tend to get much of a look in. In fact my rational mind spends most of its time locked in the basement with a rubber ball gag in its mouth while my Actual Jay-Mind runs the show. Actual Jay-Mind thinks thusly… “My 5k PB at the moment is just over 28 minutes. This time last week it was a little over 29 minutes. Therefore, the way I’m going, in just over seven months time I’ll actually finish BEFORE I start!!! Oh. My. God!!!”
3. Running stretches time and space
The laws of quantum-ness don’t apply to runners in the same way they do to everyone else. I was quick to realise that on, for example, a 5km run, the first kilometre goes on for around three kilometres. The next 3900 metres go on for exactly 3900 metres. That leaves the final 100 metres, which generally tends to stretch to somewhere in the region of 47km.
*If anyone knows an actual word for this feeling, feel free to pipe up. There’s a lollipop in it for you, as well as a feeling of immense smug git-edness.
**I went to a strange school.
PS: It’s been mentioned that recently when posting pictures on my blog, I’ve gone a bit crazy with random cut-and-pasting and have veered away from the pretty landscapes I used to post. I’d very much like to redress the balance here…