The J Word

Ah, that's nice. Now, camera away and back to sweating.

So, that was 2011 then.

If I were a more traditional sort, I’d start with a wry look back at my year in running before moving on to a list of things I’d like to achieve in 2012.

Well, I’m not particularly traditional, but on the other hand I am quite lazy, and putting a clever spin on the usual tried-and-tested end of the year blog post sounds like a lot of hard work. So I’d like to start with a wry look back at my year in running…

Actually, “wry” sounds like a lot of hard work too.

There’s no point in going into great depth about how my running’s come along in the last 12 months, because I’ve already blogged about it all at length. Well, if I’m going to be totally honest, I’ve blogged a bit about running, and a lot about other stuff. Mostly involving ducks, the occasional ninja* and what has been pointed out to be a borderline obsession with ewoks.

For me, the most important part of 2011, in running terms at least, was the resolution I made almost exactly a year ago to keep going with this running lark. Back then I was a generally unfit running novice with a track record of affording new year resolutions approximately the same level of respect you’d give to Harold Shipman if you caught him bumming a kitten.

(Ummm… you know that feeling you get when it seems like you might have just alienated around 80% of your readership?)

Anyway, that had been my resolution as I plodded my way into 2011, and back then nobody really believed I’d stick to it, least of all me. I’d been running for around 2 months and was still firmly in the “Mile-and-a-bit three times a week and there’s NO FRICKING WAY that I’ll ever be able to run 5k” club.

A year on and I’d class myself as a generally unfit running novice (ish) with a track record of affording new years resolutions, well… let’s just say not very much respect at all. Until now. Because since I made that half-hearted absinthe-fuelled promisette to myself as Big Ben chimed the end of 2010, I seem to have somehow run somewhere in the region of 600 miles, including two half-marathons and one short jog in which I was very nearly mugged by a swan. And more importantly I bloody enjoyed it, to the point that I’d completely forgotten about that new years resolution until just now, when the time came to make some new ones.

In my running life I have many many goals for 2012, but they all boil down to one thing.

To stop jogging and start running.

Now, I may have opened a can of worms here, as the term “jogging” is a bit of a contentious term. The proverbial shark in the sock drawer.

I may as well come clean now – that’s not an actual proverb.

Well it might be, I honestly haven’t checked.

But my point is, referring to a runner as a “jogger” is comparable to walking up to the biggest burliest mixed-martial-arts cage fighter you can find and describing his sport as “basically just karate, but with more cuddling”. There’s a popular consensus among us lovely folks in the running community that you’re a runner from the moment you lace up your trainers and head out the door, and that the “J Word” is just a term that was coined in the 80s to help market it as a pastime.

Well I disagree, and I’m reclaiming that word for myself and others like me; I am a jogger, Hear me puff and wheeze a bit.

Okay, needs some work before Mizuno and Asics start breaking down my door begging to use that as their latest ad slogan, but you get the idea. Why do I class myself as a jogger, you ask? Well I’d attribute it mostly to my lack of focus and structure in my training. Because I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot lately, and the main problem with the focus and structure of my training is that, well, I don’t have any. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely over the moon with what I’ve achieved over the last 12 months, but I’ve not made it particularly easy for myself along the way. After careful consideration (well, careful by my standards at least) I think it all comes down to “junk miles”. What I mean by this is that while I’ve been running several times a week without fail, there’s never been any real element of training to it, other than haphazardly trying to build up the mileage and run a bit quicker. Alarm bells should really have gone off when I failed to make any real progress on the latter over the course of a year. I fell into the trap of thinking that any miles were good miles, because it was always going to be more than the old non-running Me had managed.

A general principle of running, which ties in neatly with common sense (ah, my old nemesis rears its head once again) is that your long runs should generally be either slower than your shorter runs or should feel harder. And that, dear sweet reader, is where things fall apart for yours truly. I am, it would seem, the proverbial One-Speed Charlie.

Again, not a real proverb.

Because if I run a mile or two on flat terrain my average pace hovers around 10 mins/mile, and it feels like bloody hard work. And if I run a half marathon over hilly terrain my average pace hovers around 10 mins/mile, and it feels like bloody hard work. And if I run any distance in between, on any terrain you care to mention, my average pace… well, I’ll let you guess. I’m tempted to try running a thousand miles barefoot over lava and broken glass while balancing a grand piano on my head**, just to test the theory to its limit.

As I’ve said, I’m not having a go at the Me of 2011, handsome devil that he was. But I’ve had a few tastes now of what it feels like to be an actual proper runner, and I want more of it in 2012. Plodding is fun, but I want to soar. Or just plod a bit quicker. Y’know, I’m not fussed. So, how to achieve this? Well, a few things spring to mind. Not actual resolutions, more a set of rough guidelines…

1. Cut down the junk miles.

From now on I’ll allow myself the occasional run where I just head out of the door and amble along for 3 miles, or 6, or 10, or whatever I fancy. But they’ll be the exception rather than the norm. Variety is key, and 2012 will see me tackling interval training, hill work, a proper weekly LSR and all of the other things that I’ve often read and talked about, but never actually done. Not properly anyway. Hopefully, in 2012 I’ll even work out once and for all what a “tempo run” is, and what’s so great about them.

2. Speaking of junk…

I keep threatening to sort out my diet, but I’ve never really quite managed it. It’s not that I eat an awful lot of junk, in fact most of my diet is reasonably healthy and I’ve got in the habit of keeping myself well hydrated. But healthy or not, the portions are probably too big and vices like cheese and white bread sneak in under the radar with scary regularity. My non-running resolution for the year is to cook more for Mrs Plod, so hopefully that’ll make me more conscious of what I’m eating and I can start to move over to a life of sweet potatoes, fresh fish, quinoa, and trying to find out what the hell quinoa is***.

3. Cross train

Now that I’ve well and truly caught the running bug, I’m feeling the need to balance it out with other ways of keeping active. It makes sense that if I’m generally in better shape all over then it can only improve my running, especially as one of the things slowing me down at the moment is excess weight. It sometimes feels like I’m running around with a typewriter and a couple of bags of gravel strapped to my stomach****, so a leaner Me would be a happier Me. Haven’t really thought much about what other training I’ll actually do, but it’ll almost certainly involve kettlebells and circuit training, as I can do those at work. To top it off I might try something a bit different, like climbing or possibly getting back into martial arts. I should really do both, then if I failed to beat someone up I could just climb a tree and wait there till they got bored and went away.

It’s annoying, because I’d had bloody loads more ideas for these while out on runs (sorry, jogs) but they all escape me now. I think the above plan is a good start though and should hopefully help to mould me into a better runner over the next 12 months. If things go to plan, then I have a few rough goals that I’ve thrown together as something to aim for…

  1. Run at least 1000 miles over the year
  2. Enter more races, including Parkruns whenever I can
  3. Mix things up a bit and have a go at something a bit more trailey (real word)
  4. 5k PB below 0:25:00, ideally closer to 22
  5. 10k PB to 50
  6. Half Marathon PB sub 2hrs
  7. Start marathon training towards the end of the year
  8. Leave the double-figure pace behind for good
  9. Manage a pull-up. For some reason, these bastards are my gym-nemesis and I tend to just hang there pathetically for a few seconds like a forlorn gibbon before giving up. Legend has it that some people can do more than one of these damned things, but I can’t see how that’s possible.
  10. If all else fails, then I’ll be happy just to spend another year plodding along. 2011 has been amazing, and I’ve learned so much about myself and the world around me just from the seemingly simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and then repeating. I’ve also met some great people along the way, both online and off, without whose advice and encouragement I never would have accomplished so much.

Okay, my Mawkish Sentimentality klaxon has just sounded, which means it’s time to stop typing now. I’ll close by saying thanks to all of you who’ve been reading my silly little blog throughout 2011. Who knows, perhaps 2012 will see me settle down and start making a bit more sense.

…Nah, I’m betting it’ll still be mostly ducks and Vikings, with a garnish of vague runningness if you’re very lucky.

Wishing you all a truly awesome new year, full to the brim with smiles, laughter and chocolate.

* Great title for a self-help book
** Sticking with the end-of-the-year theme, 2011 will of course always be remembered as the year that the IAAF ruled that Paula Radcliffe’s world records would only be recognised if she adhered to those very conditions. Or something.
*** At the moment I’m fairly certain it’s a character from Moby Dick, in which case I might have to borrow a bigger saucepan from somewhere.
**** Not literally. Although if I were to run with those things strapped to my stomach, my average pace would hover around 10 mins/mile, and it’d feel like bloody hard work
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4 thoughts on “The J Word

    • Yeah, but you’ve been jogging 900 miles a week, and now you’re back to being speedy again AND doing 900 miles a week 🙂

      On another note, I hope Chalkie feels better today mate.

  1. Pingback: New blog post: Running Smart | Born to Plod

  2. Pingback: Goodbye 2012: The obligatory look back at a year of running « Born to Plod

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