Like many others before and after me, I started running to lose weight and gain fitness, and in doing so improve my quality of life, for me and my family. Put so simply, who wouldn’t want to run?
Except it’s not always so simple.
The idea of walk-run didn’t appeal to me, and it never occurred to me to follow one of the many “couch to 5 km” apps or similar. So, I went from relative couch potato to 5 km runs far too quickly. The result was shin splints. Painful. They stopped the running, so I returned to the gym. Cardiovascular workouts on the bikes and cross-trainers improving my fitness whilst avoiding the impact of running.
But somehow or other I found myself lured back to the simplicity and challenge of running outdoors. This time being more sensible. Investing in proper running shoes. In fact a couple of pairs to start building that collection of running shoes so beloved of runners. I also followed the oft repeated 10% maxim, building distance by no more than 10% per week, with rest days between running days to facilitate recovery.
And with the addition of a heart rate monitor and associated software I started tracking everything. How many runs per week. The distance, average speed and time in heart rate zones for each run. Measuring increased distance, increased speed, reduced heart rates as I got fitter, as running became a habit.
As 2015 turned into 2016, one evening, over a pub meal with my family, I decided to set myself the target of running 750 km in 2016. I now know that by many runner’s standards 750 km in 12 months isn’t a great deal, even my stretch target of 1000 km (which my wife thought a much better number to target than 750 km) isn’t a lot. But at that point in time, to me, it was a challenge. It meant running circa 20 km each week, more if I had time off for holidays. And that meant running at least three times a week based on the typical length of my runs. So over 2016, running continued as a positive habit that I could fit around my family’s activities.
That year I passed 750 km in August, and 1000 km in October, eventually achieving 1200 km by year’s end.
So, for 2017 I set out with a new target of 1200 km, but over time my approach to running has changed subtlety. Yes, targets are still important, and I still have my running watch and heart rate monitor. But running is now more important than faster times, and further distances, running has become an important part of who I am by providing an opportunity in our often crowded schedules to take time out and enjoy the moment. I’ve even taken to employing a form of mindfulness when running, counting breaths to ten and then resetting to zero and repeating. If I find my mind wandering I just focus again on the breathing. I also, when the scenery merits, stop and take photos. Enjoy the moment. Your moment.