‘Running is a solitary sport but the strength is in our numbers.’

This quote is taken from a recent interview with Chris Heuisler on the Run to the Top Podcast. I was listening to Heuisler’s interview on my (run) commute home last night when I realised how perfectly these sentiments chimed in with the blog post I’d been writing about a recent surge in running community love, experienced following a race last week.

Last Sunday I ran the Derby 10 with my lovely pals Katie and Ant. Having never run a 10 mile race before I didn’t have a target time in mind, and although I had a vague idea of what sort of splits I’d ideally like to do, knowing that I’ve not really been training properly post-holiday, the pressure to do a PB was totally off. While in the end it wasn’t the fastest 10 miles I’ve ever run, it wasn’t the slowest either, and it was certainly one of the most enjoyable.

It was a freezing but bright morning and despite multiple layers of jumpers before the race, by mile four I’d stripped down to my vest (albeit with my headband and gloves still firmly in place). I had initially been nervous about motivating myself as this was my first official no-headphones race, but I have to admit that I rather enjoyed running music- and podcast-free. Rather than switching my music on and my brain off (which I’m often guilty of doing) I used the time to really think about my posture and running technique, focusing on not dropping into my hips and on breathing down into my belly.

I also really enjoyed spending some of the time chatting with the other runners around me.

One of my absolute favourite things about races is being surrounded by so many like-minded people. I love hearing about the running achievements and goals of others, helping and being helped by strangers to pull through the tough miles together, or flying side-by-side through the easier stretches. Running with someone else is such a fantastic shared experience; even running with a stranger you find that you form a sort of bond as you enjoy those endorphin highs together. As Runner’s World writer Tish Hamilton observed, when you share a run with someone you are more likely to open up to them as you’re not looking them in the eye and you’re throwing it out into the wind; it is almost like entering a sacred space where you suddenly find yourself over-sharing with a total stranger!

Derby also reminded me that running in an event doesn’t have to have the sole purpose of aiming for a PB. As Heuisler noted, we train for weeks and weeks on end for an event, but what is amazing is when you reach the start line and you are surrounded by hundreds, or even thousands of fellow runners, you suddenly realise how many people have all been through the same things that you have. When you are out running on your own it’s easy to think that you’re the only person training, but on race day you look beside you and realise there is a unique comradeship that makes the training worth while and which makes running so special.

Moreover, surrounding yourself with fellow exercisers certainly makes taking regular exercise easier. Listening to other people talk about their training regimes, or seeing them participate in various activities, normalises the act of exercising, making it easier to follow similar practises yourself.

I often find that the more time I spend with my running pals, the more I want to run; when I hear that one of them is entering a race or heading out for a long training run I am motivated to lace up and get out myself. I am one of the worst people for struggling with FOMO, but when it comes to exercise I find I can use this to my advantage; if one of my pals is training for a race you can bet your bottom dollar I am too!

img_8519I think it is no coincidence that my mum was a runner and it’s no accident that my nephew has started to run junior park runs. It’s unsurprising that my husband has as many trainers and as much running kit as me, or that weekends with some of my best friends often involve walking, yoga, swimming, or running a ten mile race on a freezing November Sunday morning.

So whether you’ve got an event coming up, or you are just trying to get yourself out of the door on a chilly November evening, remember that you are part of a bigger whole and that while running is ostensibly a solo act, you are part of a larger community and someone else is forcing themselves to lace-up and get out too!

Happy running.

Advertisements

November running

With the clocks going back last week and the cold, dark evenings drawing in it could be tempting to bed in for the winter months and let your running routine lapse. While I have been struggling to get back into training post-honeymoon, with a hectic social schedule combined with a case of the cold weather sniffles conspiring against me hitting my weekly mileage targets, I honestly think that early November is the best time to run and thus get back into the running groove.

In London the air has developed that sharp, crisp edge, reminding you that winter is on its way, and while it’s certainly chilly enough to warrant an extra layer on leaving the house, by the end of mile one you know you will be stripping down to a vest or t-shirt. A run in November leaves you with lovely rosy, pinched cheeks and a healthy glow, without the salty dryness that follows a run in the September sun. Early in the morning you can jog under cover of darkness, returning home to sunrise and a well-earned cup of tea. A midday jaunt gets you outside on those days too chilly to just sit in the park with a picnic and while it may be harder to get out on a dark evening, that only makes the return to the cosy warmth of home all the lovelier, and a hot post-run shower all the more indulgent.

What is more, the world just looks that bit more beautiful in the autumn sun. The trees are all in varying states of undress, some still clinging to green leaves, while others are in reds, yellows, oranges and browns. The air smells like a mixture of wet leaves, bark, smoked wood and fires, and as the sun sets every building you pass looks so warm and inviting.

So while you may have been writing off a run this weekend, just remember that post-run glow and how rewarded you will feel afterwards. I’m very much looking forward to the inaugural Derby 10 with my pals Katie and Ant this Sunday and I hope you have lovely Sundayrunday plans too.

Until my next, happy running.

Motivation, discipline and true grit

‘Don’t wait around to feel “motivated”, just get disciplined.’

These were wise words of Steve Kamb, founder of Nerd Fitness, speaking in a recent interview on the Runners’ Connect Run to the Top podcast, words which have been doing circuits in my mind ever since.

It’s funny how some things just catch your ear; some pithy refrain that you hear in passing suddenly resonates with you, as if holding up a mirror to your thoughts and behaviours.

How often have I waited to feel inspired to get up early and go for a run and found myself still in bed gone 6am as inspiration has failed to come? Or how many times have I allowed myself to skip a swim session at the end of a work day on the basis that I just wasn’t feeling up to it?

And how many times have I pushed on to do that workout and discovered that actually, despite a weary mind, my limbs are feeling pretty good, and by the end of the session I’m so glad that I overcame that glimmer of doubt, that moment when I let myself half think that I might not train?

The fact is I’m sure very few of us have actually ever regretted doing a workout. There are of course bad sessions and tough sessions and sessions where the whole time you just want it to be over, but when it is over the emotions experienced are more likely pleasure, satisfaction and relief, not regret. Conversely, if you are anything like me, there are certainly times when a missed workout has left you feeling guilty or flat.

Taking this all on board, the message from Kamb is that motivation shouldn’t be a necessary precursor to exercise (or indeed to applying yourself to, and excelling, in any aspect of your life) and ‘I just wasn’t feeling motivated’ really isn’t an adequate excuse to not do something to push yourself closer to your goals. Yes, it certainly helps on those days when you have that extra ‘get up and go’, but with a bit of discipline, the cultivation of good habits and hacking your lifestyle to decrease any obstacles that may get in your way (for an early morning run Kamb suggests sleeping in your gym kit, or putting your alarm clock at the other end of the room from your bed and next to your trainers for example) then your goals are eminently achievable, with or without that ideal of a motivating force powering you forward.

This all put me in mind of an article I read in the Guardian Family by Paula Cocozza on the power of ‘grit’.

Alongside discipline, grit appears to me as one of the paragons of successful living. I like the idea of pushing myself, challenging my expectations and perceived limits, staying motivated and focusing on goals even in the face of adversity. Of course back in the real world practice doesn’t always follow theory and I’m apt to be taken over by flights of fancy, dead set on some idea one minute and on something totally different the next.

Cocozza’s article is based around a new book by Angela Duckworth. Entitled Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. The book examines the notion that natural talent is not the only path to success. Duckworth uses herself and other successful people, from entrepreneurs to athletes and from chefs to army cadets, as case studies to uncover the traits that have resulted in each of them rising to the top of their fields. Qualities include ‘the commitment to finish what you start, to rise from setbacks, to want to improve and succeed, and to undertake sustained and sometimes unpleasant practice to get there’.

In the book, which is part autobiography part social study, Duckworth reveals that in her own difficult relationship with her father, who was never satisfied by her achievements, grit and the adoption of an ‘I’ll show you’ attitude spurred her on to success.

As a mother now herself, Duckworth also teaches her own children ‘grit’, although in a slightly more palatable way than the one served up to her. She has developed a practice called the ‘hard thing rule’, where each family member must choose a discipline and apply themselves to it, and no one is allowed to give up until the activity has run its course. Indeed, there is a lot to be said for learning to stick with something, particularly when it is something that you find so tricky and I’m thinking of applying this rule myself.

In the book Duckworth also challenges the reader to discover how gritty they are. The quiz questions she uses are below so you can see if you really have true grit. For each question select the answer phrase which best applies to you and make a note of your score (from 1 to 5, as given) for each answer.

1. New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones

Not at all like me (5) not much like me (4) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (2) very much like me (1)

2. Setbacks don’t discourage me, I don’t give up easily

Not at all like me (1) not much like me (2) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (4) very much like me (5)

3. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one

Not at all like me (5) not much like me (4) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (2) very much like me (1)

4. I am a hard worker

Not at all like me (1) not much like me (2) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (4) very much like me (5)

5. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete

Not at all like me (5) not much like me (4) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (2) very much like me (1)

6. I finish what I begin

Not at all like me (1) not much like me (2) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (4) very much like me (5)

7. My interests change from year to year

Not at all like me (5) not much like me (4) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (2) very much like me (1)

8. I am diligent. I never give up

Not at all like me (1) not much like me (2) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (4) very much like me (5)

9. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lose interest

Not at all like me (5) not much like me (4) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (2) very much like me (1)

10. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an import challenge

Not at all like me (1) not much like me (2) somewhat like me (3) mostly like me (4) very much like me (5)

Now add up your points and divide by 10 for your grit score.

If you scored 2.5 you are grittier than 10% of US adults,  3.0 grittier than 20%, 3.3 grittier than 30%, 3.5 grittier than 40%, 3.8 grittier than 50%, 3.9 grittier than 60%, 4.1 grittier than 70%, 4.3 grittier than 80%, 4.5 grittier than 90%, 4.7 grittier than 95% and 4.9 grittier than 99%.

Of course, this score only applies to you as you are at the moment, and you can cultivate more grit based on your weaker answers.

I’ll leave you with another of my new found favourite quotes, this time from Jack Canfield speaking on the Rich Roll Podcast:

‘Do just one thing each day towards your goal.’

It’s that simple. Now go and achieve something!