After running my first half marathon since July this weekend, I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect on running, my other passion. (Don’t worry foodies, the last couple of paragraphs are about a couple of ‘paleo’ finds including a fudge recipe 🙂 ) Runners will understand this; non-runners probably won’t, but I don’t think I can put into words how much I LOVE running. Other activities are just not the same. There’s nothing worse than being injured, and the option to run is taken away. Unfortunately as a runner, it seems the older you get, the more you accept that you’re either on the brink of being injured, managing an injury, or just getting over an injury. We don’t tend to call it that though. It’s more of a ‘niggle’, or a ‘hot spot’; it’s hard to admit to an injury because then you might have to take the time off let it heal. Weird how, as I write that down I am thinking of how obsessive that is, yet it never feels that way if you’re in that situation. These days though, I’m far more aware of the impact that running every day can have. As much as I love it, I have to integrate other activities to ensure that I’m able to keep running consistently. Where once I would do speed or tempo sessions three times a week in amongst other, slower runs, now I run between 3-5 times a week. My main goal is to be able to be healthy enough to run when I’m 80. So I like to think I have a more balanced approach to my running.
The Keri Keri half marathon was my first since July and the Gold Coast half, which I did on the back of an injury. My time of 1.48 reflected three months of recuperating from an injury, no speed work and my apprehension of running 21km. I don’t toe the start line as often as I used to – and even when I ran more frequently and put more energy into it, I didn’t race that often. I suffer a lot from race anxiety. Some runners enter races because if they didn’t, they would never train. That has never been me. I enjoy the training way more than the thought of racing. And, when I’m in a race situation I enjoy the challenge of running against the clock. But that is easily forgotten in the lead up to an event. Despite the low key nature of them, I was paralysed with fear in two women’s only triathlons I completed two years ago, literally unable to move for a good 10 minutes before the event. I couldn’t understand how these people could participate in the warm up aerobics when my feet were suddenly glued to the ground below me.
I believe that I could probably have been a better runner had I put into place psychological skills to help me deal with this, but wasn’t ever in a position where it was necessary. I just tend to deal with it by not racing much. When you train properly for an event you are essentially putting it on the line come race day. As an athlete you’re at your most vulnerable; there is no hiding from the clock. Worse than others’ expectations of your finish time are the expectations you place on yourself. You know you’ve trained hard, you’ve (willingly) made sacrifices, you’ve spent a decent amount of money on shoes, gear, massage (it’s a fallacy that running is a cheap sport – this quickly adds up). Race day is where you prove to yourself and others the type of athlete you are, and this is true regardless of your ability. I’ve always thought the term ‘recreational’ athlete was a misnomer. Ninety percent of people starting a race have put their heart and soul into living their life as an athlete, however that might look in real life. This is no different to an elite athlete. Despite assurances from well-meaning people that ‘it doesn’t matter what other people think’ I don’t know of many athletes who actually believe it. You hear it on the start line all the time: “oh I’ve had a calf niggle… I’ve had this cough… I’ve hardly trained at all” (and then proceed to whip your butt). People make excuses for a potential sub-par performance before the gun goes off, just in case they don’t run the time that is expected of them. The real fear (for me) is that I’ve given it all during training, had a near perfect race, yet you’ve not performed like the runner I am expected to be.
The last time I did this race I did 1.21.34, my personal best. This time? I ran a good, solid race and crossed the line at 1.30.06. Nine minutes slower which I would have been devastated with in a previous life. However I was pleased to realise that I’m actually pretty happy with it. This isn’t to do with lowering my expectations; it’s more a realistic reflection of the amount of mental and physical energy I have to devote to running outside of other things in my life. I really think that I’m a sub 80 minute half marathoner, and that I’ve got a 2.52 marathon in me, but have yet had the opportunity to actually unleash those times. (Never say never though, right? 🙂 )
Despite the stress of racing it was worth taking on and conquering the anxiety demons, and the feeling of giving it your all is a satisfying one. The pain and fear of the process is quickly forgotten as you cross the finish line, and it reinforces the reasons why you do the training in the first place. The same principles apply in life as well. When I started this blog I wasn’t sure what the reception would be like with regards to my shift in nutrition philosophy. Having an opinion is one thing, but putting it out there in the public sphere takes it to the next level which I’m not always comfortable with – but it’s a confidence thing. Therefore (much like racing), the more I do it, the easier it becomes. Ultimately (like racing) the process has been a rewarding one and I’m so glad I spend the time doing it.
Speaking of rewards, at the end of Keri Keri I came across Emma from 180Nutrition – an Australian company producing ‘paleo’ protein powder and bars. I sampled a shake made with the powder, a truffle ball with the powder, and a protein bar. Real food it’s not, but let me tell you all three are delicious. Another example of ‘not real food’… I made fudge for Caryn’s birthday, all with ‘paleo’ ingredients! I came across a link from Michelle’s Primal Journey blog and, with a few adjustments, created a slightly different version you can find in the recipe section. Caryn’s verdict? “If you didn’t tell me it was fudge it would taste great.” Success.