“I got bored of rules”

In my most recent therapy session which is a week or so ago now we were talking about some of the more creative things I am doing with my teaching for the coming academic year. As we were discussing those things I suddenly heard myself say “Well, I got bored of rules”. It’s quite a big statement that and I am sure it’s one we’ll come back to in my sessions but I’m not quite sure why or how but we didn’t linger on it and got side-tracked into something else. I don’t remember now. But that simple statement and how I had no idea I was going to say it, how I hadn’t thought about it and how it surprised me as much as anything in that moment have stayed with me. I’ve been thinking about it on and off since then.

I got bored of rules. Well yes I did but not recently. I think I probably got bored of rules a long long long time ago. I got bored of rules the minute I figured out that most of them make no sense, that most of them serve no real purpose, that most of them are bad rules. Was I a pain in the arse child that constantly asked why? I honestly don’t know – ask my parents. I am, like we all are full of contradictions though. I mean it seems a bit odd for someone bored of rules to study law, right? And perhaps even odder then for someone bored of rules to teach law. It’s also odd for someone bored of rules to have coined #MyRunMyRules as their running mantra. So here’s where the blog post splits – keep reading here for the running bit or click over to my academic blog for the other stuff.

“I got bored of rules” seemed to, in that moment, sum up so much of life. Sometime in the middle of the London Marathon – probably about when I picked my tired body off the tarmac around mile 15 – I was done with running rules. I was done with the unwritten and unspoken rules that you have to enjoy the achievement even if not the run, I was done with training plans, speedework, hill repeats and running familiar paths and loops. I hadn’t really realised just how done I was with the rules around running, even the ones I made myself until I said it out loud in the little quiet comforting space where I go for help to unswirl my mind. I have tried, with some success to free myself from some of the running rules which are not helpful to me: I try not to be ruled by pace. The rule that faster is better doesn’t apply to me. I try not to be ruled by distance – I don’t have to go further and further or higher and higher. But fundamentally my rules are still rules. I must run. Running is good for my mental health so I must run. But I don’t want to. But I also don’t want to not want to run. I want to want to run. If you’re rolling your eyes – welcome to my world, I roll my eyes at myself all the time.

So what about running without rules, without a watch, not setting a distance, choosing routes with options and just seeing what happens. Ah yes, those runs. Those runs have hidden rules. They’re the runs I must enjoy. They’re the ones to rediscover the why and the fun and the love of running. That’s what they are for. But at the moment I don’t like them. I don’t like feeling like I have to rediscover a love of running I never really had in the first place. I have vague memories of quite enjoying the odd run and not hating running but… Anyway running just seems so full of rules, so full of things I ought to be doing or not doing. So not running is the obvious solution isn’t it. Finding something else that I want to do which gives me some of the same benefits. Well yes but while I don’t actually want to run I also very much don’t want to not run. I miss running while at the same time hating every step of every run I am doing at the moment. And while I am somehow pushing back against all the shoulds, musts and ought tos in all sorts of areas of my life I am also craving the discipline of a running programme.

I want to follow sensible rules. I want a programme to tell me how far and how fast I should run on any given day. I want the programme to make the decision for me. I want the rules there, on my wall planner and I want to tick each run off with a little sticker and more than anything I want to break the rules. I want to do Wednesday’s run on a Friday and cheat on the hill repeats and add a mile on on Sunday and skip the speed session altogether. I don’t know what any of that means. “I got bored of rules” somehow says everything and nothing about how I feel about running right now.

Monday Meander

IMG_9083Ok well it wasn’t really a meander but I needed something with an M. I didn’t run yesterday and I felt a bit irritated by that but I have no reason to. It was the sensible thing. I was tired. In fact I slept for 2.5 hours in the afternoon. Anyway, today was one of those days where it could go either way. I was tired after work. I couldn’t really be bothered but I also wanted to get out today. I could have not bothered, it was tempting to postpone and run tomorrow. But I didn’t.

So after work I got my gear on and headed out. I had no real plan other than to just do the sheep loop as a relatively short route while the jacket spuds cooked in the oven. I set off and immediately thought ‘bloody hell, bloody pollen, can’t breathe’ and then I forgot that it was meant to be hard and just plodded along. The first hill was a bit annoying but soon over. I kept plodding. I went past our old sheep fields and it was lovely to see some sheep and lambs in there. All the lambs were laid out in the sun basking. I briefly thought about stopping to get a picture but wanted to keep moving. Soon after there was the 1 mile beep. I glanced at my watch. ‘Fuck, slow down you crazy woman’  – first mile in under 12 minutes.  Well the next would be slower – I’m always slower on the next mile – too much downhill (yes I know – weird). I made my way up the slope to the wood and so wanted to walk but didn’t. I kept running downhill through the old golf course and eventually turned left onto the canal towpath. I glanced at my watch and suddenly realised that I was still going quite fast. I decided to push and try and finish the second mile in under 12 minutes too.

I almost laughed as I thought that. The thing is, my legs don’t really know what that feelsIMG_27168D2698BE-1 like and my brain doesn’t have a clue. My legs have occasionally run faster by accident but my brain just doesn’t know I can do that. My brain is more a 13 minute mile kind of a girl. I started to really feel it at 1.78 miles – but probably only because I had decided to run to 2 miles and then enjoy the towpath. I suspect that if I hadn’t decided that I could have gone further at a not too much slower pace. Anyway, the 2 mile beep came. Well within 12 minute pace. I was a bit stunned.

I walked from there having a little chat with a goose and stopping to watch some ducklings (I took photos – you can’t see them!). As I marched up the big hill home I thought about how important the #myrunmyrules is to me at the moment. It’s helping me be positive about running rather than beating myself up about not going faster or further or walking or whatever. I pushed for 2 miles and then enjoyed a positive walk (with some lovely little stops) and it was a great 3.21 miles of head clearing time! All of this means that this April I have recorded the highest ever monthly mileage for me ever at 88.15 miles which takes me to 233.42 miles year to date. And I feel pretty good. I needed my rest day yesterday and I need an easy week this week to be ready for the Toronto Half Marathon next Sunday but April has been a really really good running month. Both Kath and I are on track and enjoying our running and at the end of April  the 2018 Guth/Self mileage total stands at a pretty awesome 525.96 miles. We’re celebrating in style.