07 July 2019

Why do I run?

As I approach my 60th birthday, I know I'll never be able to reach the heights of my late 20s when it comes to sporting achievement. Not that my sporting career was ever spectacular. I was an enthusiastic participant. That's not to say I didn't show some skill in the sports I played. I've played Sunday League football, cycled a lot (mainly as a form of transportation), and rose to the top tier of my local squash leagues (just).

Whilst my participation in these activities has ceased, there's been one ever present physical activity: running. It's been there right through my life, and I hope it will remain there for a few more years yet. I've had a few scares along the way mind. Two knee operations and a fractured pelvis - all injuries caused by running - haven't stopped me yet!

I've often asked myself what it is I enjoy so much about running, but it is difficult to pin down one reason. The personal challenge of trying to run a particular distance or time is certainly right up there, but so is the mental relaxation. As bizarre as it may sound, running means switching off completely from everything else in my life. I don't think of work or home life. Instead I concentrate on my surrounding and what I'm doing. Admittedly it helps if you're running in a park in good weather.

I'm never going to run 10 km in 40 minutes or a half marathon in 1 hour 32 minutes again, yet I still get a thrill from achieving small steps. 18 months ago I ran a 10 km race in 55 minutes, and was on the cusp of entering a half marathon. Then I suffered my broken pelvis after a fall. Cue an enforced 12 month sabbatical from running.

Since then, I've been trying to regain fitness. Two months after my fall, I was back in the gym doing upper body weights. When I was pain free, I started on lower limb flexibility and gentle low impact cardiovascular exercise. Admittedly I did sneak in the odd run or two when it felt OK!

With the year long wait over, I've stepped up my fitness regime. I still do weights, but the balance is more focused on endurance. Speed sessions and spinning classes help with that. Whilst I'm not quite at the same level I was at back in March 2018, I am at a level where I can achieve small achievements.

Over the past couple of months, I've been trying to attend my local weekly Parkrun. My times for the 5 km route have hovered somewhere around the 29 minute mark, with occasional trips slightly south of that. So I've been on a mission to get much further south. So this week I felt good enough to try to break the 28 minute barrier. My mid week preparation was good, with a useful fartlek session on a gym treadmill.

Last Saturday was hot. Not as hot as the previous week when it hit 34 degrees, but still hot enough to make it slightly uncomfortable. Thankfully I got a good start. The usual 800 runner crush at the start wasn't too bad, and I soon found space to run in. I settled into a fairly stable race pace for the first lap. It felt good, but I didn't want to push on too early.

I hit the halfway point in 14 minutes 20 seconds. Not a bad time, but I know I can do better. On the second lap I kicked on. The last two kilometres I ran in 5m 08s and 5m 06s respectively. The result was a time much nearer 27 minutes than 28. I came home tired but elated. There's a little way to go to beat my 25 minute PB for my local parkrun, but still.

Maybe there is the reason why I love running after all.

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