Goals, Challenge & Balance, Part 1

So, training for the half marathon has begun.

Yesterday I ran a very gentle 5.7 miles (my phone broke at the end of the 10k race on Sunday, mercifully just moments after I saved my time! – so no RunKeeper until the replacement arrives; hence some very aesthetically unpleasing figures and slightly random distances as I run tech-free), deliberately keeping things light and easy.

Having used upbeat music for a strong pace when I first started to run, I now often prefer silence, either to really focus in on what I’m doing, or to my let thoughts wander – but if I’m honest, the inner dialogue is usually more of a route-march than a gentle stroll. So when the workout’s about distance, not speed, I keep it relaxed by downloading an audio podcast; engaging my brain on a cognitive track allows my legs to find their own rhythm. I reduce my intensity mentally and physically, and simply put the miles in.

Ever since signing up for the half, giddy with excitement, very late one night about six months ago, I’ve been secretly wondering whether it was more reflexive bravado than bravery. Can I really do that distance? Have I got it in me to train the suggested weekly / monthly mileage? Why on earth would I want to, anyway!? Was my bold declaration of intent really just a personal dare?

I’m not a professional runner (or a high-achieving amateur one). I’m not going to be winning any prizes; I can’t run to the exclusion of my family, work or other parts of life. Training can’t be everything. I’m a runner, but I’m not just a runner. Core strength isn’t just a Pilates term – I need an integrity built inside me which keeps everything in balance. I’m training for a half marathon because the distance challenges me, and because the process requires discipline, pursuit and determination: characteristics worth developing, valuable for my whole life.

The gentle run helped. With Hobson’s choice on the playlist – I was borrowing my daughter’s iPod – I found some non-appalling pop music and enjoyed going at a far slower pace than I ever normally allow myself, even on an ‘easy’ run (this despite the fact that I know polarised training pays off, and always going out too fast doesn’t do me any favours). And I had loads left in the tank. I could have comfortably gone on for another three or four miles, I think. For the first time since that wild click on the Great Birmingham Run website, I felt some confidence that maybe, I can do this.

I know I’ll revisit the issue of balance; considering how the various elements of my life fit together is an ongoing part of the journey. And perhaps it was a moment of bravado – a challenge to that part of myself that’s still unsure about whether this running thing is for real. But it was also an exultant proclamation of resolve. Fitter, better, stronger, faster – it is possible. Go!


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