Can you run and not be a runner?
“Once you get in to it you’ll find it addictive.”
“You’ll love it, there is nothing better.”
“I can’t get through the day without it.”
Whilst this could be me talking about cheeseburgers, it is in fact what other people have told me about running. Running and I have always had a bit of an odd relationship. I run but I am not a runner. I am not addicted and I don’t enjoy it, yet I am somehow drawn to it.
When I was a kid I enjoyed running, most likely as it was easier dragging 5 stone around than 15 stone. I competed in fun runs and often ran between friend’s houses simply because it was quicker than walking.
After a hiatus of more than ten years that was mainly spent drinking and overeating I decided to start running once again in 2007 aged 27. Adopting my usual approach of “all the gear, no idea” I invested in an expensive pair of trainers that came with a Nike+ sensor that fitted under the sole. This was to track how far I would run and what my pace would be. In the days before GPS was widely available on mobile phones this was a pretty radical tech development, and as you’ll read later, I am always one for a tech gimmick.
With no plan I set of pounding the pavements. My first run was three miles and it took 30 minutes which I was relatively happy with. A few days later I decided to aim for 5 miles but didn’t quite make it. It turned out ten years of inactivity had impacted on my endurance levels. I let my head drop at this failure and the fancy trainers and tracking gizmo began to gather dust at the back of my wardrobe. I brought them out sporadically but my attempts to become a proper runner had fallen by the wayside.
Fast forward to 2012 and at the ripe old age of 32 I was tempted back in to the running fold by a new event called parkrun. I plan to write about parkrun in more detail separately so I won’t go in to too much detail but basically it is an organised 5k run on a Saturday morning. It worked for me in the first instance as it gave me a benchmark to try and beat each week. However, I’d also become a father for the first time and sleepless nights began to take their toll and participation once again became sporadic.
The obvious solution to this was to sign up for a half marathon and in 2014 I competed in (and finished) the Great North Run. I didn’t train properly, reaching only six miles in my training, so it was no surprise when my legs went at the eight-mile mark in the race. That said, I finished in a reasonable 2:10:28, mainly due to a ludicrously fast start. It was supposed to be a bucket list thing and I had no intention of running it again. However, not only did I enter the run the following year and I also signed up for a three-year membership guaranteeing me a place in the race up until 2017. Alas my times have got slower as a lack of training, increased weight gain and old age took their toll.
2015 – 2:21:18
2016 – 2:22:40
2017 – 2:25:14
With the guaranteed place expiring after the 2017 event I was safe from having to do it again. I decided to hang up my half marathon runners and stick to the gentle delights of parkrun. That was the plan anyway…
My aim for 2018 is to beat my first time of 2:10:28. I am training already and have an actual plan rather than hoping that random short runs will get me to the finish line.
Running and I will never be the best of friends yet we begrudgingly realise we must try and get a long the best we can.