Running through pain.

Here’s my workout from today. Another recovery run which became a segment chasing episode from start to finish but with irritatingly few results. There is a tiny climb, some 100m out of Riverside Park, by the Itchen River, which has plagued me continuously for a good period of time now. It is not particularly long, not particularly steep, but it comes at the end of a solid kilometre stretch alongside the river where the urge to push the pace is ever present. On occasion as the winds wake up, they can really pick you apart, slowly deconstructing each stride until you arrive at the foot of the ascent, battered and forlorn. It shouldn’t be as difficult as it is, but it is. It is a real bastard. My current PR up it is 26s. I am hoping to have it down to 20 in the next few months.

I spoke yesterday about things I had improved upon and one of the things I wanted to talk about was running through pain. More, just the notion of accepting that not all pains are bad pains. Not so much that I haven’t improved in this, just the potential to improve in this forum should be obvious to all runners. If you don’t understand this, you are not a runner.

I’m thinking back to my last 5km PR. Currently I am sat at a rather bloated 21:28, which was attained at the Southampton Park Run on Christmas Day. To preclude this, I was and still am proud of this PR given the circumstances – and I am simply using this story to illustrate my point.

During the race I was paced by two friends who were trying to get me to 21 minutes or at least any PB above my 21:48 preceding score. Things were predictable enough. Southampton delivers a fucking hard course and it is far from a PB safe zone. As we entered the last kilometre, I was spent. I was coming off the back of a 70km week and my legs were whimpering beneath me. We turned the corner onto the home straight and in the distance I could make out the finish funnel. “Straighten your hands,” “Get upright,” “Slow your breathing,” “Dig deep”, they said. And fuck me I tried. At least I tried as much as I thought I could manage, but really I just wanted the race to be over. I knew my pace was faltering. As I crossed the finish line, three things happened. I had the (well known to runners) mini surge of euphoria at the completion of any difficult run, I looked at my watch and cheered my new PR and finally, within moments of the self congratulation, came the crushing disappointment in having not pushed just that little harder in the final metres. From the point where the guys were goading me to stretch a little further to the finish line, I have no doubt that another 10-15 seconds could have been made up. Perhaps I could have slipped under 21 minutes. I was crushed.

Running in pain is difficult. As sentient beings we are not designed to tolerate discomfort. Our inherent systems are honed to prevent us from causing ourselves harm. Overriding the need to stop when running is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Worse, it never really gets any easier. As our pace tolerance improves, we have new levels of discomfort. The bar is perpetually raised – we’re not going to run 6:00min/km forever. I struggle with this on an everyday basis.

Saying this though, things have certainly improved. In training runs, I am not always looking for the easy way out. I can hold a set pace (a little) better. I have less patience for my own weaknesses and yet, I am no Mo Farah. When I see him up the tempo in the last 200-400m of his races, I am truly in awe. Truthfully, he never looks to be in discomfort but he must be. His collapse after the 2012 Olympic 5km in Great Britain was testament to that. The man was exhausted, yet he showed no signs of it during the race. And I suppose that’s the difference. That’s the point of the finish line, the end of the rep. It doesn’t mark the point where you can stop at it. It marks the point where you can begin to slow down. If your watch says 880m on a 1km rep, than you fucking well carry on to 1000m before you slow down. It’s self discipline.

Those are the myriad things that I’m still learning but I suppose, this is a journey. If winning races was simply the product of running faster, than there would be nothing to write about. No stories to tell. The world records for the 5 and 10km races are held by Tarisu Bekele, a man who did not even podium finish in the Olympic 2012 10km. Running faster was not the answer then. It would be fucking naive to suggest that its not important, but clearly, it is not always the defining factor.

Sometimes pain is good for you. It teaches you to endure. If I ever have children, I will take those little idiots running with me so they realise that in life, whether you run for a living or work in a department store, results don’t simply fall in your lap. You have push the boundaries of your abilities and put yourself into difficult situations. You have to work for things smarter, not harder. You cannot always bulldoze your way through an existence, you need to pace yourself and do things in a controlled manner. You have to deal with and come through the hardships. And if its not hurting, then perhaps you’re not doing it right.

 

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The Long Run: Kew(l) Loops

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The real problem and only one if we’re being particular, with the Garmin 610 running watch is the ANT + connection. Fundamentally, it is to great detriment of the good folk at Garmin and a colossal oversight that they did not think to include a hardware connection between the watch and it’s receiving computer. ANT + is a fine gadget when it works, but this is choice and seemingly more temperamental than a girl with her arms crossed on date night who is very definitely “fine”. I cannot tell you how many countless occasions I have sat by my watch coaxing it into cahoots with my macbook, only to languish after the most recent episode of pavement pounding I have undertaken. Today the problem was defined by its absence – i.e. not ANT + stick altogether which meant no workout to upload and hence share with you. It is beguiling that there is no other means to access that workout but that’s the way the world works. There are greater injustices in the world but right now I can’t think of them.FullSizeRender-2

The following chart is taken from walkjogrun, a fine application that is well worth looking into for route planning. My older brother and I rose with the dark dawn skies for our long run.The plan was to cover a looping 19km from Ealing, through Brentford (where these industrial monochromes are taken) via Kew back to Ealing. I strapped my GoPro head mount on using a time lapse which didn’t bear much fruit but I’ll have to look into that to see if there was anything worth salvaging. Halfway through it turned itself off and I reverted to film which itself turned out to be a staccato and irritating affair.

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The final route didn’t quite resemble this but it did serve a fantastically sad meander through industrial London as it previously stood. I will touch on this again in the future but we shared some interesting conversations as we coursed quietly through this decaying Kingdom. A total of 15km were realised together and I completed the final 4km on my own. At points he wanted to walk and I would be lying if I said that my legs didn’t feel thankful for the respite. This only really occurred at the 10-11th split. The pace was very gentle and overall settled at 6:05min/km, incorporating the shameful walking. A total running time of 1hr 56min was observed.

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I returned home weary and fatigued. The run had been enjoyable but was the signature on a seemingly heavy week on the legs, a total of 77.6km banked in earnest. In conversation the other day I mentioned that I felt exhausted and I was met with the appropriate reminder that exhaustion is not tantamount to improvement and indeed does not corroborate a healthy running lifestyle. I thought about this and realised that I both understood this completely and not at all. While I assured myself that exhaustion would be in keeping with near collapse – I was by no means close to this point, but that said, I had no idea how I should feel if I were.

In the same manner in which someone might point at a sky and comment on how blue it is, I often wonder if our blues are of the same spectrum. When I say I am tired, I don’t really know if I’m as tired as I should be, or even as tired as you. I don’t know if I’m tired enough. These circular arguments often repeat within me and are as confusing to me as they are comforting. When the lights go out and I let myself slumber I wonder, does anyone feel as tired as me and realise that there are people who don’t and somewhere in this peculiar world of ours, some of those will be running.

Run, come save me.

Now Playing: On and On – Ghosts

I don’t know. I think Monday is becoming the start of my running week. Clearly it is the start of the week – of that much I am sure, but since I’ve come back – I’ve not had a chance to go for a longer Sunday run. I don’t think I’m anywhere ready to confront anything longer than 10K and I’m just about getting up to speed with the 5K, riding comfortably now at about an 8 minute mile.

I had had a particularly disagreeable day at work, following a long weekend and so was really looking forward to my run. The weather was good enough, but noting the strong headwind, I opted to go for the gym instead, where seemingly the entirety of Greater London had congregated. I believe what this phenomenon represents, is the desperate rush to remove the sagging gut before the (INCOMING SARCASM) glorious English summer, where the sun shines all day and it never rains. Ever. I have some big news for some of these people as it happens – mountains couldn’t displace their gravitational field. I am certain that some of these larger folk had a solar system in tow, coke cans in orbit. Fat bastards.

Back to the running. I ran 3.29 miles in 26 minutes 47 seconds. These are my splits.

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Not too bad. When I broke 5 minute/km last time, I felt like I had the sweaty hand of God on my chest. No sign of providence this time, only the odd sight of man wearing dolly shoes. I stared at that bloke for a particularly long while. My time probably would have been better if it wasn’t for…

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Can you see where my shoe lace came undone? What a c**t. Sorry about that. I SAID CUNT.

frus·trat·ed /ˈfrəsˌtrātid/ Adjective Feeling or expressing distress and annoyance, esp. because of inability to change or achieve something. (of a person) Unable to follow or be successful in a particular career.

Is about how I feel at the moment. I have not run in what seems and on closer inspection, is close to two months; a result of some dynamic right sided knee pain which manifests itself in a variety of different forms. Today I can barely sit, the numbness taunting me from within my buttocks. It is literally a pain in the arse.

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To be honest, I should probably begin running again, in some form or other, dragging myself around the cemented streets of West London. The reason for my abstinence is due to an impending application for an ever elusive Ears, Nose and Throat Surgical Training job. This has been on my mind for some time now. And honey roasted cashews. In equal quotients.

Let me elaborate. Surgical training in the UK is a convoluted affair, where after acknowledging the ability to drink till one is suitably blind, one leaps from medical school into the wretched arms of foundation training, extending a misery of two years until some doting bastard with a pen in his hand puts a mark next to your name suggesting you might be good for something other than auditing how many patients are using newspapers to wipe their collective arses with and offers you a basic surgical training position where you spend a further two years emailing pointless forms to each and every one of your colleagues until either they, or you or both are wailing in a corner rocking back and forth under the impending administrative assault on your souls and/or Islam and at some point, round about now, you apply for what is called National Selection, the holiest of grails in the surgical training calendar.

Last year, I came within touching distance of this job, falling just short of requirement, but not of expectation – being the suitably inept human I am. I like to think of myself as the anti-Indiana Jones. You remember where he’s being chased by an Arab (they’re always Arabs) through some evil ancient erection (snigger) and he’s approaching a closing trap door and every single part of you wants to see him fail just so you can see the look on his face as his body is crushed into a smug little mess in Arabia (is that a place?) but he doesn’t because he’s Harrison Ford and he has a deal with Spielberg over 3 films and his hat comes off and just in the dying seconds of the scene, he steals it from a likely lonely existence, in the cave with Omid Djalili? You remember?

In my scene, I am cut down where I stand. As the scene closes, my arm is left convulsing in a darkened pit where it has been amputated. The interviewers reach down and pick up the hat marked “ENT ST3” on it and walk off into a refrain with Beelzebub laughing. Bastards.