Reading about running, watching running and the day after 9 miles

When I logged on this morning this was actually the blog I intended to write but then I got side-tracked with the award and doing the last post so I never did. So now you get two posts in one day.

It’s Sunday – that means weigh-in. Last week I forgot and was grumpy. I never did go back to check my weight then but I suspect it was up. This week I did remember and I have lost just about 2 pounds (from where I was 2 weeks ago) so happily going in the right direction. We are now making more of an effort on the food front and have pretty much cut out the booze so that helps. Food plans for the week include a risotto, a quorn chilli, pasta parcels, a home made curry and a meal out on Wednesday. We’ve got fruit and salad stuff and I will make a banana loaf later on to satisfy our sweet tooth.running free

This morning I finished reading Running Free by Richard Askwith (published in 2014). Kath read it and suggested I might like it. Hm, it’s bizarre enough that I am actually running but reading about running? Step too far? Well actually I really enjoyed the book. For a start it is well written and in some parts laugh out loud funny. My favourite line in it actually isn’t about running but about getting lost (it’s funny because it happened to me too):

“…but I have been lost indoors – not just temporarily disoriented, but properly sit-down-and-cry-and-wait-to-die lost – on a disastrous visit to the Birmingham branch of Ikea”

I can identify with that – mine wasn’t Ikea, mine was the old Health Studies department of my university where I went to do some interviews. Anyway, there is much in this book with which I can indentify and much with which I would love to be able to identify and lots that confirms to me that I am not really a runner and much that confirms that I am. Richard Askwith clearly loves running. I wish I did. I always thought I hated running but that might not actually be the case. It’s something I find incredibly hard and sometimes it makes me miserable but often it also makes me happy. Initially just the having done it made me happy. Being able to say I had and doing something I was always fairly sure I couldn’t do made me happy. Now though it is sometimes the running itself that makes me happy. Not on every run and never for very long but every now and again I get a glimpse of some of the things Askwith describes: It’s not so much what he says about how running makes him feel or clears his head – it’s more about his description of his runs which focus on what he sees and hears and the emotions that that creates. That’s what I get a glimpse of, the hightened awareness of the natural surroundings and the response I have to it. I recognise his descriptions not because I know the places but because I am beginning to notice the same kind of things on some of my more positive runs. I recognise these emotions:

‘Happiness spread through my being like warmth. Within minutes, it was as if none of the morning’s difficulties had taken place’

‘And part of the appeal (or scariness) of running in wolder contexts – outside the illusory reasurance of civilisation – is that it forces us to face up to uncertainty’

I also read his take on ‘Big Running’ with interest. It has always struck me that running gear is incredibly expensive and that this whole industry has turned something that should be free into huge business. I too can be sucked in by gadgets, marketing promises and shiny new stuff. I could spend a fortune – except that until very recently most of the mainstream shiny new stuff wouldn’t have been available in my size, or only just. I am a bit bemused by it all and at the same time part of me has bought into (or sold out to) Big Running. I am running with the one ultimate goal at the minute – the Disney World Marathon. What could be more corporate or more big running than that? And I am doing it because I want to be able to say that I have done it. Reading the book made me wonder whether that is the only reason. If it is, I’ll likely achieve my goal and then not run again. That, I am beginning to realise, would be a shame. Askwith runs without a watch, he doesn’t time his runs and he runs in the countryside and not in the gym or along roads. All of that appeals. I am not sure about tackling fields etc round here and I don’t really know why I am not sure (and slightly irritated by not being sure – I want to be the kind of person who happily runs through muddy fields)  but I’ll take the canal bank or the trails at Bolton Abbey over a running track, road or treadmill any day. I am not really interested in racing. We have signed up for a few events but for me it isn’t about pitching myself against others. Running is about me and not even about getting better, just about me doing it. Askwith talks about running in an environment which makes you happy and running round here where I live makes me happy and if I am going to run a ‘race’ then I want to do it in places that mean something to me or are somehow special. So the upcoming Nottingham Half Marathon will evoke memories of the year I lived in Nottingham, the Scarborough 10km after that will allow me to enjoy the stunning views across the sea and the Disney World marathon – well that’s just another leve altogether and we’ll be doing that to raise money for an amazing charity. Big Running – yes but also Jess Running. Anyway, read the book. It made me think about my running journey, appreciate it and it somehow made me enjoy my running more even if I am not quite ready to give up the outcomes focused recording of time, distance and pace – and I want my stickers for each completed run. I don’t think Askwith would mind that, I think maybe he’d acknowledge that we are in different phases of running and I think he’d encourage me to just keep getting out there – and by out I mean off road.

I have also been watching a bit of athletics – I often have sport as background noise when working at home. It’s a distraction that keeps me focused (if that makes sense). I watched Mo Farah take the 10km Gold (that’ll be 10km in a faster time than I can run 5km), I watched Usain Bolt win the 100m Gold and I’ve also seen other bits and pieces over the last couple of days.. As I watched those elite runners I suddenly thought how lucky I am. There is no pressure on me to run and when I do there is no pressure on me to go fast. There is no pressure to go for a certain distance or keep going for a certain time. I decide. The elite runners are phenomenal, of course they are but I’d rather be me. I’d rather have the freedom to plod my way along the canal bank and watch the herons flying ahead. As I watched Mo cross the finish line I realised I had tears running down my face. The win obviously meant a lot to him, being good at winning medals obviously means a lot to him and just running, however pathetically slowly, means a lot to me – in a really funny and conflicted way.

I’m still feeling pretty smug about the 9 miles yesterday and my body seems to have recovered very well. The weak point is my knees. That’s perhaps not surprising – I’m heavy, many might say too heavy for running. However, they are not what I would call sore, not injured as such, just a bit weak and creaky. I am planning a  yoga session this evening and that will help recovery further. I am also looking forward to my next run.

3 thoughts on “Reading about running, watching running and the day after 9 miles

  1. Definitely going to read this. Wish I’d seen this earlier, as it was my turn to choose the book for my book club this month. Would’ve been a good one to pick. Might buy it for my husband, actually, as it sounds like his kind of thing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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